PM Stephen Harper stands on an iceberg with Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk with the Canadian Coast Guard medium icebreaker Henry Larsen, August 25, 2010 in Resolute during his annual Northern Tour.
Credits: File Photo
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to the Far North next week, with his annual trek focusing on the Western Arctic and developing the region's natural resources.
The five-day north of 60 trip gears up in Whitehorse Monday, with stops at copper and gold mine Minto Mine and Norman Wells, an oil drilling and exploration hub, in the Northwest Territories.
The prime minister then heads to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where two years ago he announced a new $81 million high Arctic research station would be built in the hamlet perched on the Victoria Island coast in the Arctic archipelago.
The tour wraps in Churchill, Man., where Harper is to take part in Operation Nanook, alongside 1,250 navy, army and air force personnel for an annual northern sovereignty exercise.
Harper has spent a week every summer in the Arctic since he became prime minister, an annual trip meant to assert Canada's presence in the region.
But despite the attention the prime minister has paid to the Far North, opposition MPs and environmentalists say he's failed to address chronic concerns in the North and hasn't laid out a long-term plan to develop and protect the region.
NDP Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington said Friday the Harper's northern strategy is falling short, despite seven years of Arctic promises and photo-ops in northern vistas.
And even significant investments are a drop in the bucket of what's really needed, Bevington said, citing the $150 million Ottawa recently committed for an year-round Arctic highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., which could cost up to $300 million to build.
He also said the federal government has so far failed to address the problem of the high cost of living in Canada's northern communities.
Sierra Club Canada's executive director John Bennett said with the warming climate changing the Arctic faster than predicted, the government needs to commit to more environmental research into the way Arctic weather is fluctuating.
"We really need to know - even for the benefit of those who want to extract the resources - what the climate is going to be like and what the conditions are going to be like in five or ten years," he said.