Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper conducted a five-day-long tour of his country’s Arctic regions last week in a trip that has provoked a serious debate on the federal government’s future policies toward the far-northern territories. Some critics have called the trip a pre-election publicity stunt designed to drum up support for Mr. Harper’s Conservative party. However, The Economist reports that the Harper government has “allocated more funds to the Arctic territories than the two previous Liberal governments managed during a dozen years in power.”
Efforts to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic have long been a priority for Mr. Harper’s government, particularly in light of growing global competition for control of the region. Governments see one of the effects of global warming as allowing for now-hidden natural resources to be accessible in the future.
In addition to visits to public works projects and groups of constituents, Mr. Harper visited Canada’s ground and naval forces and pledged to increase the military’s presence in the region. Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia all have considerably more forces stationed in the Arctic than Canada. Those countries, along with the United States, dispute Canada’s sovereign claims to vast stretches of territory in the region.