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The Honourable Chuck Strahl, PC, MP
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-status Indians
Announcement of the Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund Project Selection
Yellowknife, North West Territories
March 30, 2009
Check against delivery
(Acknowledgments of NWT officials, local dignitaries, members of the media, as appropriate . . . .)
Thank you for your kind introduction.
I am convinced it’s impossible to go anywhere in Northern Canada without the welcome mat being put out. Whatever the community, you can always count on a warm welcome. But I want to especially thank our hosts here in Yellowknife for their tremendous hospitality.
I have come here today to update you on our progress in advancing the Government of Canada vision of a new North –one that realizes the full social and economic potential of this region and secures its future, for the benefit of all Canadians.
As residents know, Canada’s North is at a crossroads. This region is undergoing dramatic changes with significance for the entire country.
While the North has not escaped the world-wide economic downturn, we know that its future prospects continue to be bright. Its rich reserves and potential for clean energy and minerals will most certainly lead to great business and employment opportunities for Northerners. So will the growing fisheries sector and the tourism industry, with people from across the globe anxious to discover the North’s unspoiled natural beauty and its rich cultural heritage.
At the same time, there are powerful changes taking place in the Northern environment as a result of climate change. Multi-year ice in the Canadian Arctic is melting, and much faster than previous predictions. To cite just one example, last summer, unusually heavy rains destabilized the permafrost and caused the two bridges in Pangnirtung to collapse.
Not only are the traditional lifestyles of Northern people being disrupted, these environmental changes have implications for all Canadians and, indeed, worldwide.
Which is one of the many reasons why our Government is investing heavily in the Arctic. We recognize that we have an important role to play in the ongoing stewardship of the Canadian Arctic, its vast resources and its potential.
Just yesterday, our government confirmed an investment of $3 million to the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, who will use these funds to move toward its goal of one-third ownership of the pipeline portion of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project. Further demonstrating our commitment to Northern prosperity.
And this morning, I was pleased to be in Fort Smith to announce that our government will invest over $1 million from our Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) initiative to support Aurora College’s efforts to develop a mobile component for the school’s heavy-equipment-operator training program.
Underpinning the four pillars of our Northern Strategy, we have committed to making Canada a global leader in Arctic science. We made a major down-payment on that pledge with our International Polar Year investments. In 2007-08, we provided $156 million for Canadian participation in International Polar Year (IPY) research activities – the largest contribution of any single country to IPY, which is itself the largest-ever global program dedicated to Arctic and Antarctic research.
To ensure Canada remains a global leader in Arctic science, our Government also committed to establish a world-class research station in the High Arctic to respond to the growing number of Arctic questions that require study.
We have undertaken extensive consultations at home and abroad about the role of this new station and the scientific research that it will conduct. The science carried out at the year-round, multidisciplinary facility will be cutting edge. It will provide influential advice for Canada and the world on Arctic matters, and offer solutions to Northerners to increase sustainable economic activity and enhance their quality of life. Canada’s Economic Action Plan pledged $2 million for a feasibility study for the station, which is now underway. This study will provide recommendations on the best final location, the facility’s functions, services to be offered and preliminary cost estimates.
Budget 2009 also committed $85 million over the next two years to upgrade or renovate existing Arctic research facilities.
This investment will ensure that a strong research infrastructure network is in place to support Canada’s new High Arctic research station.
Our Government is moving quickly to realize the commitments we made in our Economic Action Plan and to accommodate the special needs of construction in the North.
It has been just over a month since I was in the North to announce the three potential locations for the Station – as well as the Call for Proposals for the Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund.
Over the past month, we have worked quickly to assess the many excellent proposals the have come in.
Today, I have the pleasure of announcing the initial 14 projects that have been selected to receive funding from this envelope.
A diverse range of facilities from across Canada’s North have been chosen. We know strong Arctic research is vital to our Northern Strategy goals and we are making sure our scientists have the facilities they need to conduct it.
For example, right here in the North West Territories, we are supporting the Arctic Health Research Network to increase research facility space and create a training centre in Yellowknife focusing on community-based methods for public health research.
We are helping the Aurora Research Institute to build a new facility and upgrade its existing ones so it may continue to meet its mandate to improve the quality of life for NWT residents by applying scientific, technological, and indigenous knowledge to solve northern problems and advance social and economic goals.
And we are expanding four separate radiological monitoring sites in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to support research that contributes to our understanding of the major sources and pathways of airborne contaminants in the Arctic.
In addition to the scientific knowledge that will be supported, these investments will provide Northerners with a significant economic stimulus – both in the short-term through the construction and renovation activities, but also in the longer-term through the ongoing operations of the facilities and the science and technology related jobs.
The list of these 14 projects is available to you today and will be posted on our website.
I am very excited about these initiatives, which will build Canada’s knowledge base of the Arctic, establish Canada as a global leader in Arctic science and technology and help fulfill the goals of our integrated Northern Strategy.
I have high hopes and great expectations for Arctic science and technology and Northern progress in the years ahead.