Canada Vs The US

January 28th, 2006  

Topic: Canada Vs The US

Canada's new prime minister tackles US over Arctic rights
By Francis Harris in Washington
(Filed: 28/01/2006)
Canada's new Conservative prime minister, accused by opponents of cringing pro-Americanism, has fallen out with Washington.
Just three days after his election, Stephen Harper attacked statements by the American ambassador suggesting that Canada's iceberg-strewn Arctic seaways are "neutral waters".
Stephen Harper: Canada will defend its sovereigntyWithin hours the Conservative leader raised the issue with journalists, although he had not been asked to comment. Emphasising his new government's commitment to increase defence expenditure in Canada's Arctic, Mr Harper said: "I was very clear about this in the election campaign. The United States defends its sovereignty. The Canadian government will defend our sovereignty."
He continued: "It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States."
Canadians interpreted the Tory leader's words as a signal to the public that he would be a dogged negotiator for Canadian interests with President George W Bush's administration.
"It let him show he's tough on the Americans," said Scott Anderson, editor of the conservative Ottawa Citizen.
But there are also serious issues at play now that the once-frozen waters of the North-West Passage are opening up for shipping and oil exploration.
Mr Harper has pledged to build three armed ice-breakers to underline Canada's claim to the waters running between the innumerable Arctic islands.
He also intends to construct a deep water port at the Baffin Island settlement of Iqaluit and to deploy powerful sensors on the ocean floor to detect incursions by foreign navies.
American, French and Royal Navy submarines are all believed regularly to use waters that Canada says it owns.
The American ambassador, David Wilkins, emphasised when he spoke that he was merely reiterating a longstanding policy on the Arctic. "Our position is very consistent. We agree to disagree. We don't recognise Canada's claims to the waters.
"There's no reason... to say, 'There's a problem that's occurring and we've got to do something about it'," he said.
But experts believe the days when Canada and America could bury the issue are almost at an end.
Ships have begun to navigate the waters of the North-West Passage as the ice recedes. The route would cut 4,500 miles off the passage through the Panama Canal.
It has been speculated that Canada will one day out-produce Saudi Arabia once new fields are discovered in the Arctic.
25 January 2006: Canada's Conservatives back after decade in cold