Harper to head North for five-day tour
Prime Minister to visit Resolute Bay, Cambridge Bay next week
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will return to the North for a five-day visit that will touch down in all three territories starting Aug. 23.
The trip will kick off with a visit to Churchill, Man. Aug. 23. Harper will stop in Cambridge Bay Aug. 24, where he’s scheduled to make an announcement. He’ll then travel to Resolute Bay, where he’ll take part in Operation Nanook Aug. 25.
The prime minister then continues on to Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Whitehorse.
The announcement of the Harper’s tour follows a flurry of activity by the federal government on Arctic issues. It came just days after the federal government apologized to the High Arctic Exiles for their forced relocation in the 1950s and on the same day foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon made a major Arctic foreign policy statement.
“Canada will stand tall when it comes to the Canadian Arctic,” said Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister’s director of communications, during a briefing in Ottawa. “And during this year’s fifth annual northern tour the prime minister will make further announcements to advance the government’s northern strategy.”
Dennis Bevington, the MP for Western Arctic and the NDP’s northern affairs critic, said he wants to see Harper make concrete announcements on devolution and tackling the region’s high cost of living.
“We’re living in a difficult and a very expensive place which is very difficult for many, many people in the North,” he said.
Speculation is rampant that Harper will also announce the long-awaited location of a High Arctic research station during the trip. Resolute Bay and Cambridge Bay are both thought to be front-runners for the station, although Pond Inlet is also a possibility.
But Bevington said beyond new infrastructure, the government should set an ambitious research agenda for the North, focusing on climate change, northern living conditions and traditional economies.
Nunavut MP and federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq will accompany Harper during parts of his trip, Soudas said, as will the new Indian and Northern Affairs ministe,r John Duncan.
Duncan visited Inukjuak earlier this week to issue Ottawa’s apology for the High Arctic relocation. Reporters asked Soudas why the Prime Minister didn’t plan to make the apology himself during the trip.
“Obviously the prime minister has a lot to say and a lot to do during the trip,” Soudas said.