Stephen Harper and the melting Arctic

On Thursday, September 6th, 2012 in Island Tides

In what has become an annual media photo-op, Stephen Harper made his seasonal trek to Canada’s North in August.  The bravado of proclamations of “use it or lose it” Arctic sovereignty and flexing of nationalistic muscle is wearing thin. The commitments for deep sea ports and ice breakers and new research stations have begun to run aground on the reality of broken promises.

First promised in 2005 and again in 2008, the much-ballyhooed new icebreakers — in fact, armed, troop-carrying icebreakers — have been delayed once again. The Chinese, with no Arctic coastline at all, now have icebreakers in Canada’s waters while our Coast Guard’s Amundsen is in dry dock.

The construction of the deepwater port naval port in Nanisivik promised in 2007 has yet to be begun, despite promises it would begin two years ago.  Also two years ago, the Prime Minister announced a major new satellite project, the Radarstat Constellation Mission. It now appears to be mired in budgetary delays.

Additionally, Stephen Harper has promised the creation of a new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) to be built in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. This is one of the more bizarre announcements. It was first pledged in the 2007 Speech from the Throne claiming the government would “build a world-class Arctic research station that will be on the cutting edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development. This station will be built by Canadians, in Canada’s Arctic, and it will be there to serve the world.”

It is bizarre because at the same time that the Harper Conservatives are pledging millions to build a new research facility from the ground up, they are shutting down a world respected facility further north, closer to the North Pole. The PEARL station (Polar Environmental and Atmospheric Research Laboratory) at Eureka on Ellesmere Island, recently had $10 million invested in state of the art equipment to monitor ozone depletion and the build up of greenhouse gases. Closing it down is a scandal. 

The language for CHARS’ mandate suggests a coziness with resource development. The unbelievable waste in shutting down PEARL, already in operation and producing critical work, only to build a brand new facility with a vague mandate and claim to be the world’s leading high Arctic research station is stunning. My theory is that killing climate science is the goal, and being able to throw out a big number being spent on Arctic research is about spin to claim that science is not being abandoned. Money will be spent on Arctic research, but not in areas that threaten the Harper agenda.

Notice how the promises of the last six years of Harper’s northern agenda are cloaked in military goals. Our icebreakers must be armed and capable of carrying troops. Why exactly? The deep water port is a naval port, not commercial and not even of use in the all too rapid growth of tourism to the Arctic. As Michael Byers pointed out in a recent Globe and Mail article, international cruises are now plying the once impassable waters of the Northwest Passage, without reliable navigational charts and with an inadequate level of search and rescue infrastructure should our foreign visitors run into trouble.

Last month, the Prime Minister laid out some promises for which his follow through is a mere formality. He is promising that mining and oil and gas industries will stake out the Arctic and begin a pell-mell level of development. With C-38 and the removal of the vast majority of environmental reviews, with the loss of habitat protection in the Fisheries Act and so on, the Arctic is wide open for environmental assault. Harper claimed $38 billion worth of development, coming from two dozen projects are barrelling toward the fragile Arctic environment. These projects include drilling for oil and gas along the Arctic coastline, as well as mining projects.

It is all too clear how Stephen Harper views the melting Arctic. Not for him the grim warnings of science – nor will he heed the news that fires, floods and droughts have been increased globally as the jet stream slows down due to a warming Arctic.  The melting of the Arctic is only cause for celebration. In his entire trip to the Arctic, the Prime Minister made no mention of the fact that the world was approaching an all-time record level of loss of Arctic ice.

The threat to our Arctic territories is in rapidly changing Arctic climate and the positive feedback loops that allow the melting ice to expose dark ocean water and cause the melting to accelerate. None of this is good news to anyone aware of the science of climate change.

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre has reported that Arctic sea ice has already dropped below the 2007 melt record – and there are still two to three weeks of melt to go. On August 26 the ice dropped below 4 million km2, an all time loss of Arctic sea ice. This is a melt of more than 40% of summer ice extent in the past decade alone.

Stephen Harper has it wrong. Arctic sovereignty is not a case of “use it or lose it.” It is an imperative to “protect it or lose it.” Harper’s version of Arctic security will bring about Canada and the world’s increased insecurity. His is not an agenda of leadership. It is the 2012 version of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 dark classic Dr. Strangelove. Stephen Harper is leading us toward destruction.

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  • Courtney

    Personally I’m beginning to truely believe he has already accepted pay outs from at least China to just let them walk in and take parts of our country (never mind the rumors of what hes already handed the states. I am beyond sickened by every action and opinion the Harper Government has had and their intentions are even worse. The man should be found guilty of treason and given the worst possible punishment for selling out his own country and people. I am very grateful we have someone like you Elizabeth to stand up but we need more like you. Down with Harper and his dictatorship, Up with freedom and common sense!! I hope this all hits home for more soon so maybe they will bang their pots and pans to!!

  • Ken Wildman

    To the Honourable Elizabeth May;


    With great respect and admiration,

    Ken Wildman

  • Jonathan Buxton

    Articulate and factual. Fantastic article. You are the leader this country needs.

  • Debbie

    Thank you for your persistence on behalf of Canadians. Many of us do appreciate it and are very worried about our children’s future. I think it’s going to go from apathy to chaos and finger pointing sooner rather than later….but it may be too late.

  • Mike in Nova Scotia

    Very well said Ms. May.. All of your statements are true. Mr Harper appears to be all about the spin and does not care for actually following through with any of his announcements (unless they are cuts). I am a Federal cival servant so have to be careful to not be identified as I wish to retire rather than be fired.
    Science to him seems to now “the bad guy” as it does not usually corrobarate his view of the world. I fear sad days ahead for the Canada I know & love….

  • Beatsme

    I’d say Harper is leading us toward annihilation rather than destruction. And I suppose people are travelling to the Arctic in record numbers to see it before climate change wipes it out altogether. The insanity of all this is just depressing.

  • Dianne Kyd

    We must stand up against the” Stephen Harper Government” They are making grave mistakes at a crucial time.The need for environmental protection has never been more DIRE!

  • lora bruncke

    Thank you for your insights!! After reading Marci McDonalds The Armageddon Factor I have a better understanding of Mr. Stephen Harper’s agenda and I can see why he seems to leading us to anniliation!!

  • Judi Pavlovszky

    Everything I read from you just makes me like you more. Please keep it up.

  • James Duncan

    Yes, the Canadian electorate cannot have failed to notice that Stephen Harper said not a word about climate change, and the consequent cultural devastation of our northern peoples, melting sea ice, species (e.g., the polar bear) extinction… All he appears to see is the almighty dollar that is to earned from resource development.

    • Mitchell Leckner

      Sadly, the Canadian electorate does not seem to care because we are letting Harper get away with atrocity after atrocity, whether is be environmental, democratic, etc…

  • Fred Kay

    Bravo Elizabeth for having the courage to speak the truth about the real threat. Never was an analogy more apt than your reference to Dr. Strangelove.

    • Jeanette C.

      Elizabeth I commend you on this article. You mention that the promises of the last six years of Harper’s northern agenda are cloaked in military goals. Icebreakers must be armed and capable of carrying troops. Why?
      Could it be due to Harper’s Canadian foreign policy which dictates that all decisions are now made in consultation with Israeli advisors under a public security cooperation “partnership” signed in 2008 by Canada and Israel to “protect their respective countries’ population, assets and interests from common threats.”
      It all boils down to OIL and Harper’s Zionist connections.

  • R. A. (Bob) McDougall

    Very nicely done! I will include a reference to this one on my “NATIONAL STRATEGIC PLANNING” website: see

  • Cliff Esler

    As is so starkly evident in this article, Mr. Harper’s confident assertions about how best to steer Canada into the future are closely aligned with those of U.S. thinkers like Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

  • ChristianJustice

    Has there ever been a more hated PM?!? This guy is quite literally destroying Everything that Canada once proudly stood for, both internationally and domestically. You, MP May, are a great leader and true Canadian. Thank you for the honest truth.

  • Brian Rahilly

    It is called folly, but this folly is a Pandora’s box – a nightmare of unimagined proportions.

    We need to “Recall” the Harper regime and have new elections asap.

    This is not my Canada.

  • Lynne Partel

    Excellent article Elizabeth! Your take on Harper’s activities regarding Canada’s precious Arctic is nothing short of shocking. What is even more shocking is that we have a leader who so easily dismisses the importance of the environmental challenges faced by the planet in favour of short term financial considerations. Thank you for your moral compass and courage to speak out….so appreciated.

  • toby dent

    Think also that Harper’s agenda of Armageddon in the Middle East is becoming a real possibility. How do we stop Mr. Strange Hate from destroying us all?

  • Larry Roberts

    IS there ANY POINT in ‘holding our breath’ in hopes of ANYONE BESIDES Elizabeth May actually even be starting to TALK about OUR REAL problems ???
    And, here in Quebec, we’re STILL arguing about language … ???????????????? THANK YOU Ms. May
    We’re at WAR
    What you say ?
    Yah … we have ‘casualties’ nearly every week … sometimes daily …
    We’re at WAR
    With nature … climate change ?
    With ‘corporatism’ …
    With our own government … our ‘corporate puppet wanna-be King Harper and his ‘cheerleader’ Accomplices’
    Americans with theirs …
    The entire world with theirs …
    With ourselves … with what we want and don’t want to give up …
    What’re we going to do ?
    We have to do something differently.
    We need a ‘quantum leap’ of egos,To give up our individual 15 minutes of fame … and all find a way to work TOGETHER
    I have hope that my little grand-daughters can survive the war.
    I’m trying to do everything I can.
    I have a dream.
    I have a dream … that people will wake up and listen …
    I have a dream … that people will be what we can be …Before it’s too late … Thanks for all that you do.
    “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.”
    “Always have a dream longer than a lifetime.” – Jack Layton
    “This isn’t over.”
    “Single largest threat to modern civilizations is climate change” – Elizabeth May
    “If we don’t have an Earth, nothing else matters much.” – Al Gore
    If you do, “When you pray … shuffle your feet.” – old African proverb
    “If your government doesn’t listen to the people, they don’t have the right to be in power.” – a simple African citizen
    “If you don’t care to help others in a time of need, then you won’t merit help in yours” – me
    Elizabeth May’s inspirational keynote speech
    (36 minutes long) – long enough for a coffee, but IF you care, you won’t be able to finish drinking it.
    “Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up” Ronald Wright (found graffiti) “Ever since Adam ate the apple, man has refrained from no folly of which he was capable.” Bertrand Russell
    “We’re at a pivotal point in Human history … is what it means to be alive, right now, in this moment, on planet Earth, and be part of a particularly industrious, clever species called Homo Sapiens, who stand on the cusp of destroying absolutely everything. The question … as Human Beings … and we have self-identified as Homo Sapiens – the ‘smart ones’, so the question before us is simple. Can the smart Ape learn? We keep repeating our mistakes, over and over again. … but over and over again, human civilizations have occupied all the resources available, over pastured the cropland, over used the waterways, overtaken natural systems, and as a result, they have crashed.” Elizabeth May
    “We need to always understand, that the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment.” Herman Daily (former Senior Economist to The World Bank)
    “We are, as a species, sleep-walking to our own extinction. … The evidence is bombarding us. … Glaciers are moving way faster than politicians. … Canadian democracy is melting as fast as the Arctic Ice. … I want us to figure out how to survive on the one home we have. … We have to learn. … We can’t afford to be lazy.” Elizabeth May
    “We live in ‘occupied territory’, and the occupiers are Trans-National Corporations.” Ursala Franklin

  • ChristianJustice

    It’s so sad that you’re doing the job the media should be doing. The level of apathy in this country has reached anti-democratic levels, due largely to a media that takes it’s marching orders from our dictator who is all too happy to leave the Canadian people un- or mis-informed.

  • Roothead

    Thanks for this important update. It is so crucial that we have Elizabeth May informing us accurately about the double-speak of conventional politics. Leadership and integrity are not two different things. A leader does not ignore and lie about science and its role in political decisions. A leader shares the truth with the electorate – you are a real leader Elizabeth.

  • Bearspirit

    don’t expect to hear SH speak anytime soon, if ever, about “climate change” as noted in this article … it’s against his religious beliefs, no?

  • Denis

    Nicelly written. The Canadian people have to wake up and see the conservative government for what they really are: business and exploitation at all cost. What would Canada look like in 50 years…

  • Dr B

    I wish that someone was home. With our current government we do not need scientists; we need lawyers and a very angry public. I think that the word is MOB. Unfortunately, the public is snoozing on the couch.

  • sharon

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. For your commitment, insight, wisdom. I agree with the person who said we need YOU leading this country.

  • El Preece

    If all the good people who have left comments here could infect ten others with some anger and understanding at what this government is doing maybe that would be a start. I despair that most are paying any attention, they are concerned with their own little problems, providing for their daily needs etc. and that is exactly what Mr. Harper is hoping for. Come election time, (and it can’t come soon enough), and even now for that matter, he knows only one word: THE ECONOMY. His friends in high places have the same concerns, the economy, preserving their privileged existence. I see our PM as a dictator but he’s smart and puts fear into the electorate that without his agenda we will all be starving and jobless. We desperately need to wake up!

    Harper wants more trade with China, the US, etc, he is prepared to overlook any ethical considerations such as China’s record on human rights – nothing must stand in the way of trade and the almighty dollar. He is dismissive of science and without information he cannot come close to making the right choices. I believe he is a megalomaniac, his opinion of himself is such that he believes himself capable of knowing all. He has surrounded himself with puppets who only speak when he tells them what to say. We must find a way to get him out of office. In another three years he can do untold damage to this country. Can the people impeach the Prime Minister? I wish!!

    Thank you Elizabeth May for your insights and for keeping us all informed. But I would like to think that those of us who get these emails would forward them to others and I hope we do. Spreading the word is the only route we have open to us.

    • Mitchell Leckner

      What else do we expect from an Economist as our PM? Economists are taught that the almighty dollar and the pursuit for ever increasing growth and profits (in our finite world) is the prime objective… They are taught to think in the (relative) short term, never looking generations into the future. Who needs to worry? Our self regulating capitalistic economy will make it all work out in the end…

  • Sharon J

    Well said, Elizabeth we need your voice and your leadership

  • theonceover

    Stephen Harper is hoping environmental questions
    about the Arctic will go away, and he’s helping his aim by making the Arctic
    go away.

    Also, it seems to me ‘Harper’s’ search for
    the Franklin ships with all its CBC hoopla may simply be a ruse of finance-for-capitalistic-gain
    from mapping of the ocean floor—this under the guise of appearing to support the
    ‘Kent endangered species,’ Environment Canada.

  • J. G. Pineau
  • J C Price

    I am proud to be Canadian. Steven Harper is an embarrassment to this country and all we believe in. His corrupt, Americanized schemes have no place in our society.

  • Elizabeth

    Just happened to come across a book ” Doubt is Their Product ” written by David Michaels. The Bush Administration in the US worked this kind of shell game. Costly and counterproductive. Takes years to undo the damage. Thank you for the work that you are doing !

  • Alice Hooper

    Canadians are brainwashed into thinking that “the Ecomony” is all that matters and that it is exclusively dependant on oil. Thank God, there are some who are aware of the facts and willing to do something about it! Thank you, Elizabeth! Keep up the excellent job you are doing!

  • yrm

    I have thought many of the same things. (esp. about touting the North and then closing down the research station). I used to think politicians did more than talk but now I doubt them all. What things do that say that they will do and which ones are just photo op, vote getting ideas?

  • Geoff Doggett

    great if we could only get dalton to GET RID OF THE B.S.L . and have the third reading of the bill in the house . now that would be a SOMETHING.–THEN THROW BOTH Harper and McGINTY OUT OF GOVERNMENT FOR GOOD!!

  • Rosie

    Scary stuff! So many
    energies could be enlisted to figth this – energies that are now being spent in
    video games, home renovations, cruises, golf, movies.

    It is said that Neron
    played the harp or violon as Rome burned.
    If Neron’s name had been Stephen, he would have been selling Rome as a
    great place for business and a tourist destination as the city burnt to the ground.

    Scary stuff! So many
    energies could be enlisted to figth this – energies that are now being spent in
    video games, home renovations, cruises, golf, movies.

    It is said that Neron
    played the harp or violon as Rome burned.
    If Neron’s name had been Stephen, he would have been selling Rome as a
    great place for business and a tourist destination as the city burnt to the ground.

  • Dr. James Deutsch

    Bravo! But perhaps we should not refer to them as “Our” territories, as they were appropriated from the indigenous peoples, and “We” have done “Our” best to destroy them.

  • catfish

    I detest Harper’s policies. Boy do I wish he hadn’t won a majority.

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