Cambridge Bay to host High Arctic Research Station
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, August 24, 2010 7:22PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that the small community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, will become the new home of a long-awaited High Arctic Research Station.
The town of 1,400 was chosen over Resolute Bay and Pond Inlet for the multidisciplinary facility, which will help researchers explore the region's vast expanses.
"The Canadian High Arctic research station will be a meeting place for Canada's top scientists and indeed for leading scientists from around the world," Harper said Tuesday in Churchill, Man.
"It will also inspire the imagination and ambitions of young Canadians … across the North."
The plan was to make the announcement in Cambridge Bay, but bad weather in Churchill meant that Harper and the Ottawa press corps stayed grounded in Manitoba Tuesday.
Ottawa wants to have the station up and running by 2017, which marks the nation's 150th birthday. A new ice-breaker is also to be unveiled that year.
The Harper government first promised the station in 2007, but then plans appeared to stall. Last year, the government announced the short list of potential sites.
Then, the 2010 federal budget set aside $18 million for pre-construction design. But that money will be doled out over five years.
Some critics say the extended timeline is proof that the Conservatives' plan in the North is nothing but talk. But Harper said that any decision to build in the Arctic takes time.
"In the meantime, we have been putting additional money into northern research and into existing northern research facilities to expand programs and to lay the groundwork for the eventual and final establishment of the research station," he said.
"They are long-term projects but we are not standing still but things are happening."
CTV's Richard Madan says it's no coincidence that Cambridge Bay was chosen, given its location on the Northwest Passage.
"This is an area that is of great interest to Canada and also to other nations that border the region: the U.S., Russia and Denmark. All are hoping to lay claim to various parts of the far North," Madan said from Churchill.
"So the point of opening this research facility in Cambridge Bay is to further exercise Canada's sovereignty, Canada's control of the far North."
Highlighting the difficulties in developing the North were 100 km/h winds and heavy rain, which prevented Harper from travelling to Cambridge Bay.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who once lived in Cambridge Bay, was also planning to take part in the announcement.
"The weather is awfully bad. It's pouring rain and it's windy and even the military aircraft pilots were uncomfortable flying in this weather this morning," Madan said.
The prime minister is using this Arctic trip -- his fifth to the region in as many years -- to assert that the Arctic is a vital part of Canada's national identity and its economic security.
Washington and Ottawa continue to disagree over which country controls the Beaufort Sea. And both Canada and Denmark lay claim to tiny Hans Island, which lies between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. What's at stake are rich amounts of natural resources, most notably, oil.
On Monday, Harper warned that protecting Canadian sovereignty in the region is becoming "more critical" as international interest in the region grows.
With files The Canadian Press