Icebreakers needed

What has happened to Stephen Harper’s commitment to build seven Arctic icebreakers back in 2007?
Why, in 2015, are we still waiting for just one Polar-class icebreaker to be ready for work in 2021?
The whole plan keeps being deferred as the need for more study in Ottawa continues to pile up meeting costs.
In the meantime, with global warming opening sea channels across Canada’s north, how will we maintain sovereignty over our northern area?
In 1969, the United States challenged Canada’s Arctic sovereignty when the USS Manhattan, an oil tanker with a modified bow, transited the Northwest Passage without permission of the Canadian government.
At the time, up to four icebreakers from Canada and the U.S. accompanied the ship.
Two years ago, the Nordic Orion traversed the Northwest Passage carrying coal from Vancouver to Pori, Finland—saving $200,000 in transportation charges.
A Korean company now has built a modified-hull, ice-breaking container ship to speed deliveries from Asia to Europe through the Northwest Passage by avoiding the Panama Canal.
Today, in a first, the Chinese navy is operating in the Arctic above Alaska. Russia, meanwhile, has laid claim to the North Pole.
That country now has 31 icebreakers, with three new nuclear-powered ones to be delivered in the next five years (the first arriving in 2016).
With oil, gas, and mineral exploration expanding across Canada’s north, how will we retain sovereignty over the north with only one or two aging icebreakers being able to patrol the region and do scientific research.
The north is full of economic activity. More nations are looking at the northern sailing route for economic reasons.
Even within the former Soviet Union, the ability to travel across the Northern Sea from Murmansk to Vladivostok is deemed important for tapping oil, gas, and mineral deposits and bringing those resources to market.
The Northern Sea route reduces the distance between those two ports from 23,200 km to 14,280 km.
In the meantime, as Canadians, we continue to rely on the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent—launched in 1969—to patrol the north.
U.S. President Barack Obama this past week pledged faster action on new icebreakers to patrol the Arctic waters adjacent to Alaska, and to be able to respond to major incidents in the north.
A new Polar-class icebreaker will go into service for Norway in 2016. It moved from concept to laying the keel in less than three years, using the world centre for icebreaker design and a shipbuilding centre in Italy.
In Canada, we find it necessary to have a made-in-Canada design and a built-in-Canada ship. That is political expediency.
Maybe the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker will be built to patrol the north. Just don’t count on it.

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