Foreign Policy Blogs

In 2012 Budget, Canada Discontinues Trips for Foreign Ambassadors to the Arctic

pangnitung fjord

Ambassadors won't be seeing the stunning entrance to Pangnirtung Fjord, which will soon have a new harbor, anytime soon. (c) Ansgar Walk

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:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada will complete the transfer of managing and maintaining Arctic ports to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. One such harbor, Pangnirtung in Nunavut, will hopefully be completed this year. Fisheries and Oceans is spending $5.8 million this year to finish construction.
  • No additional funding will be allocated to Arctic research infrastructure under the Economic Action Plan, as the program has concluded. In 2009-2010, $32 million was allocated, and in 2010-2011, $51 million. A total of 20 projects were completed, ranging from the refurbishment of the M’Clintock Channel Polar Bear Research Cabins to the upgrading of the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory.
  • $5.2 billion will be spent over the next 11 years on renewing the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet. This is in addition to the $35 billion that is going towards the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

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.

News Links

“Budget bill vote marathon wraps up,” CBC News



Mia Bennett

Mia Bennett is pursuing a PhD in Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She received her MPhil (with Distinction) in Polar Studies from the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, where she was a Gates Scholar.

Mia examines how climate change is reshaping the geopolitics of the Arctic through an investigation of scientific endeavors, transportation and trade networks, governance, and natural resource development. Her masters dissertation investigated the extent of an Asian-Arctic region, focusing on the activities of Korea, China, and Japan in the circumpolar north. Mia's work has appeared in ReNew Canada, Water Canada, FACTA, and Baltic Rim Economies, among other publications.

She speaks French, Swedish, and is learning Russian.

Follow her on Twitter @miageografia