Harper says northern development is a “national dream”

Resource projects in the north have attracted $8 billion in investments, which are expected to create 3,000 much-needed jobs.

August 21, 2012   by The Canadian Press

CARCROSS, YukonCanada’s future lies in the development of the North, the prime minister said at the start of his annual Northern tour.

And Stephen Harper said it’s his government’s job to make sure that’s done in a way that benefits Northerners and all Canadians.

“The North’s time has come, my friends,” Harper told a rally of party faithful gathered 45 minutes outside Whitehorse. “And you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Plumping up the Canadian mining and oil and gas sectors to feed resource-hungry countries the world over has become a singular focus of the Harper government. The prime minister refashioned that priority Monday as one belonging to all Canadians.

The North’s untapped wealth is “that great national dream,” Harper said, but Canadians need not sleep any longer.

“It is not down the road. It is happening now,” he said.

The prime minister’s office said there are currently 11 resource projects under environmental assessment, representing $8 billion in investment and 3,000 jobs.

Changing the environmental assessment process to require fewer reviews and limiting their scope was one of the more contentious elements of the Conservatives’ recently-passed budget. Others included changes being made to old age security and transfer payments for health care.

“Not every one of these measures is easy or is popular with everybody,” Harper said in a stump-style speech in a riding captured by the Tories in the 2011 federal election. “But they are all good for Canada. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Of the many places in Canada Harper goes each year, the North is among those where he clearly feels the most comfortable.

“To succeed, what the world must become in the future is what Canada is today,” he said, after taking a swipe at G8 partners in the US, Japan and Europe and their teetering economies in the face of Canada’s continued success.

Those countries are among many interested in the resources that lie in the North.

Next year, Canada takes over leadership of the Arctic Council and key among the issues it’s facing is whether to allow more countries—including China—to have a seat at the table.

A Chinese icebreaker arrived in Iceland this week after becoming the first Chinese ship to cross the Arctic ocean.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird didn’t appear concerned by the trip.

“The Chinese have an interest in the Arctic. So does Singapore for shipping, so does the European Union,” he said in Ottawa. “We will engage with others leading up to the Arctic Council meeting in Sweden.”

©The Canadian Press

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