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Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to media on the Historic Kinsol Trestle a wooden railway north of Shawnigan Lake, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2014. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to media on the Historic Kinsol Trestle a wooden railway north of Shawnigan Lake, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2014. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The North

Q&A with Harper: No previous government has ‘delivered more in the North’ Add to ...

Within the Canadian government, you mean, as well?

I am not going to name people but I think that view exists in circles. I think that view exists. But I can tell you it’s not an acceptable view to Canada’s elected government.

I guess the challenge is always if you don’t let certain people into the club [the Arctic Council] they’ll start their own club. Right?

Yeah. That’s different than … And that ultimately has been the argument that we have agreed with in terms of admitting observers [to the Arctic Council]. Although the government’s position has been to restrict the growth of observers only to sovereign states. Because it was beginning to become not just sovereign but non-sovereign observers as well. It was just becoming …. Literally everybody in the world wanted to be in the Arctic Council. So, look, I think that’s an argument. But to the extent there is an underlying argument of people who are actually trying to turn the Arctic Council into some kind of international governance model that washes away the notion of sovereignty in the Arctic is a different agenda. I don’t believe it’s an agenda that is supported by any of the Arctic states, by the way. I don’t believe it’s an agenda that would even be entertained by any of the Arctic states. But it is an agenda that exists and it’s important that Canadians recognize when people criticize what the government is doing in the Arctic, this is often what is driving them. That they actually don’t support the notion of sovereignty in this part of the world and as I say, that’s just a view that Canadians don’t agree with.

What is the drawback of allowing this other view to take hold?

Well, obviously Canada would lose its sovereignty over a significant part of its territory and the entire struggle of this country from essentially 1812 onwards has been that the northern part of North America will be the home of a separate and independent nation.

I would like to talk about the Arctic promises, the Northern strategy. Many people give you a lot of credit for what you have done up there. But they also say the promises have started to pile up and far exceed the deliverables. I am thinking about the patrol ships, the Diefenbaker, Nansivik [naval facility]. There are delays that have stretched on in some cases five or 10 years. There is a history of prime ministers promising and not delivering. Can you address the concerns?

Well, first of all I think that you are actually misstating the general perception. I think the overwhelming general perception in the North is that – and it is a fact – that no government has paid more attention and actually delivered more in the North than this government.

I mean, it isn’t even a contest. We have done more and delivered more than several previous governments combined. Now, is that to say there aren’t cases of delay? Yeah, there are.

Really, if you look at those, in fairness, where there have been some delays in the timelines, they are principally in the area of the shipbuilding. Shipbuilding and obviously the Nanisivik naval facility related to that, because there is no reason to rush the naval facility in the absence of progress on the shipbuilding.

And really the primary reason that occurred, Steve, is the government ultimately decided to make the shipbuilding specifically for the North part of the government’s broader national shipbuilding procurement strategy, which did cause a delay. But we believe, as you know we have, in the national shipbuilding procurement strategy, the objective goes beyond merely a greater Arctic presence. It also is about fundamentally the re-equipping of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard over the long term. As you know we are at really critical junctures with those two forces. They essentially have to be comprehensively re-equipped over the next generation. And we wanted to do so in a way that is good for the Canadian shipbuilding industry – that we provide good, solid, long-term marketable shipbuilding contractors and end the boom and bust cycle.

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