Stephen Harper is reassuring the lightly armed Canadian Rangers, who carry Second World War era rifles as they patrol Northern Canada, that Ottawa still intends to buy them new firearms.
The Prime Minister is spending time with the Rangers, part-time reservists in the Canadian Forces, during his annual tour of Northern Canada. He is visiting with them in the Arctic hamlet of Gjoa Haven. The Rangers provide a military presence in this country's sparsely populated north, reporting to the Forces if they spot something such as a foreign submarine.
The government began efforts to buy more than 10,000 firearms for the Rangers, but the project ran into obstacles, and stories have surfaced in recent years of challenges in replacing parts for the old Enfields.
Mr. Harper said it is time the Rangers got new firearms.
"I am told there is no difficulty in servicing the weapons at the present time, but this is a concern, and we believe it is time," he said. "The Department of National Defence is in the process of scoping out a program for replacement and I expect that to happen over the next few years."
Each Canadian Ranger is issued basic kit including a red Ranger sweatshirt, a ball cap and a rifle.
The Prime Minister had no updates on the government's much-delayed efforts to buy new search-and-rescue planes, which are important for northern Canadians. The Conservatives promised the purchase in the 2006 election campaign, which vaulted them into office. Canada's auditor-general warned in a recent report that Ottawa's search-and-rescue capabilities are in trouble in part because its fleet of specialized aircraft is becoming too old.
There's still no date for new SAR planes. The federal government has been trying to buy new planes for years, and a draft request for procurement is being shortly.
The Prime Minister said Canada is reviewing its search-and-rescue assets: "As you know we have significantly expanded the Canadian Ranger program, which is a vital part of the search and rescue" capabilities, he said.
Separately, Mr. Harper took umbrage at a reporter's description of his policy style as "trickle-down" economics, a term that in the 1980s became synonymous with U.S. president Ronald Reagan's laissez-faire approach to the economy.
He noted $5.6-million in training cash for mining announced for NWT aboriginals and some from Nunavut on Tuesday was anything but "trickle down" help.
"I have never used the term 'trickle down.' That is certainly not even remotely indicative of what we're doing here today. This is direct support to people, including aboriginal people, in this territory that will put them directly into jobs," Mr. Harper said.