ice patrol

Stephen Harper recently announced that the federal government will buy eight new Arctic patrol ships. This will supposedly help Canada "reassert sovereignty" over the far North.

There are a lot of things wrong with this, in my opinion. While I've been thinking about it - and while I wasn't blogging - for the last few days, two letter writers in the Toronto Star voiced my opinion for me, and better than I would have. Here they are.

Stephen Harper is astute to recognize our need to invest in Canada's Arctic, but his plan is embarrassingly misguided and far from prudent.

The matter for true concern is not the condition of Canadian icebreakers and patrol vessels. For Harper to casually admit that Arctic waters will be navigable by 2015 is reason enough to puncture the veneer of his environmental concern. Does he not recognize the sheer ludicrousness of such a statement, or the sense of urgency that it elicits?

Harper is telling us that when the planet has been altered beyond repair, we will be there to plant our flag and exploit its resources. Reckless exploitation is what brought us to this crisis in the first place.

In this age of concern for the state of global warming, it's perhaps the mode to criticize Harper for his lack of any environmental agenda. But Harper's knee-jerk spending defies common sense. An icebreaker becomes obsolete when there is no longer any ice to break.

I thought civilization had tired of the need to break through the Northwest Passage. The 17th century is over. If we want to lay claim to the Canadian Arctic, we've got to be committed to its upkeep before we concern ourselves with a petty attempt to defend it. If Harper's hope is to assert our sovereignty in the Far North, then there is no better way than by spearheading an effort to ensure its survival. That would be prudent Arctic spending.

Eric Démoré, Stratford, Ont.

* * * *

Let me get this straight. Our Prime Minister is prepared to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars in military hardware and personnel in order to keep his best friend from usurping traditionally sovereign Canadian property and resource rights. Has it not occurred to our hapless leader that no amount of military might will scare off the world's mightiest superpower? If Uncle Sam wants something, a few icebreakers and a hundred troops will hardly keep him at bay.

Apparently, Stephen Harper can think of no better way to establish our presence in the North than to send troops and hardware. Has it never occurred to him that supporting culture and encouraging the development of civilian infrastructure may be considerably more convincing to a truly "friendly neighbour"? It seems to me that civilized friends respect each other's sovereignty and settle problems in discussion and debate, not by showing off their respective gunboats.

Every time we have a problem with Harper's best friends, he is ready to snap shoulder-to-shoulder, ready-aye-ready, and we have to borrow from our grandchildren to finance military operations. I, for one, am getting a little tired of Canada's new government's obsession with military solutions to issues of civility and democracy.

Joseph Romain, Toronto

Thank you Mr Démoré and Mr Romain!

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