October 22, 2007

PM pledges Arctic strategy, new research facility to protect far north environment

Among the highlights of the October 16 Throne Speech was a commitment by the federal government to develop an integrated strategy for Canada's far north and to build a "world-class arctic research station" in the Canadian Arctic.

The forthcoming strategy, while focusing primarily on strengthening Canada's Arctic sovereignty, will also ensure protection of the environmental heritage of the region and will promote economic and social development. The strategy sketched out by the Speech further pledged improved governance for Canada's Arctic to give northern residents greater control over their destinies.

The promised research station, to be built by Canadians, "will be on the cutting edge of arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development," the Speech stated.

Another interesting initiative mentioned in the Speech is the government's plan to carry out comprehensive mapping of Canada's Arctic seabed. This will be the first time this part of Canada's ocean floor has ever been fully mapped. While the project is considered part of the government's assertion of Canada's Arctic sovereignty, it will be of interest and use from environmental and resource development perspectives as well.

A specific section on environment and health reiterates the federal government's pledge to implement its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategy calling for a 20% reduction by 2020 and 60% to 70% reduction by 2050 (no base year given in the Speech).

The government intends, however, to bring forward for parliamentary consideration the elements from Canada's Clean Air Act, which it notes had all-party consensus.

Also promised are first-ever national air pollution regulations, a carbon emissions trading market, and a new water strategy aimed at improving water quality in Canada's major lakes and oceans and providing better access to safe drinking water for First Nations.

(See Commentary for more Throne Speech details.)

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