It won't hit the ice and water until 2017, but Canada's new $720-million icebreaker already has a name.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the icebreaker that will become Canada's flagship in the Arctic will be named after the late Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker.

Diefenbaker's government built more than 2,000 kilomtres of roads and highways in the North in the latter half of the 1950s and early 1960s.

"He understood that to truly fulfill our national dream, we must accept the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by our North," Harper said in an advance copy of a speech he'll deliver in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, according to The Canadian Press.

"As prime minister Diefenbaker said as he stood here in 1961, there is a new world emerging above the Arctic Circle."

After its completion almost a decade from now, the Diefenbaker will replace the Louis St. Laurent, which was named after Diefenbaker's Liberal predecessor.

Harper reaffirmed his desire to tighten Canada's grip on Arctic areas along Canada's northern coast during a visit to the region this week. Russia, some European countries, Canada, and the U.S. have laid conflicting claims in the region.

Since he was first elected as prime minister, Arctic sovereignty has been a priority for Harper and many observers expect it will be a key campaign plank for the Conservatives during the next election.

Harper's government has promised billions in spending to protect the Arctic, much of it going to the military and coast guard. The government has also established a number of parks and protected areas in the region.

On Tuesday, Harper announced $100 million in further spending to map potential mineral resources in the North.