On Thursday, the Canadian House of Commons held a 24-hour session to vote on the 2012 federal budget. After members listened to the over 800 proposed amendments, they finally voted in favor of passing the budget. It will now move on the the Senate, where it will almost inevitably pass.
One of the notable cuts is the $71.8 million decrease in the annual budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The Department will actually have to make do with $169.8 million less over the next three years. Jeffery Simpson of the Globe and Mail reports that there will no longer be an annual trip for ambassadors to Canada to the Arctic. These trips to the North had been an important way of showing Canada’s Arctic in a positive light to foreign diplomats. If Canada wants policies such as the EU’s ban on seal fur imports overturned, for instance, it’s helpful if diplomats can observe firsthand Aboriginal lifestyles. Furthermore, in 2013, Canada is planning to both submit its claims to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2013 and take over chairmanship of the Arctic Council. With all of these events on the horizon, it seems like a bad idea for Canada to cancel the trips this year.
Other notable points in the budget related to the Arctic include:
Canada is right to invest more heavily in its Coast Guard. But it should also think about having a more comprehensive strategy in the Arctic that involves courting diplomats, meeting Northerners’ needs, and enhancing its capabilities. If only it were that simple.