And if we can't defend ourselves, we can't protect our sovereignty either.
Which is why Stephen Harper's Arctic defence announcement is especially timely, following on the recent unannounced incursions of American submarines in our -Arctic waters and Paul Martin's belligerent anti-American chest thumping:
Stephen Harper unveiled Thursday a Conservative government's recipe for protecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic that he says will rely on an enhanced navy, army and air force presence north of the 60th parallel, as well as greater underwater and aerial surveillance of the area.
Harper told a news conference a critical piece of the sweeping plan entails building three Canadian-made, armed heavy ice-breakers, capable of carrying troops, and stationing them in the area of Iqaluit.
A Tory government would build a deep-water docking facility for both civilian and military uses in the same area, he said. He estimated the cost of the ice-breakers and docking facility at about $2 billion over nine years.
Other elements of the Conservative plan include;
Building a new Arctic army training centre in the area of Cambridge Bay on the Northwest Passage, staffed by 100 regular force personnel.
Stationing new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft in Yellowknife.
Providing eastern and western Arctic air surveillance by stationing new long-range unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons at CFB Goose Bay in Labrador and CFB Comox in British Columbia.
Protecting and developing the Arctic has always been a favourite bit of political rhetoric with all major political parties. But standing on guard for the True North strong and free has, in practical terms, been little more than a cheap campaign promise.
Actually stationing troops and icebreakers in the Arctic, beyond the token base in Alert, will demonstrate not only to northerners that we're taking their defence seriously, but will the Americans and Danes on notice not to play games with us in the Arctic.
How sensible is this policy? Even the NDP peaceniks love it, even if it's only to keep out those evil American nuclear subs:
NDP Leader Jack Layton said he was generally in agreement with the Conservative proposal to boost Canada's military presence in the north to protect the nation's sovereignty.
"The fact that there are submarines ... sometimes, apparently, without Canadian knowledge in the Arctic passage is something that should be of concern to every Canadian, and we believe that that should be a focus of our defence strategy based on sovereignty," Layton said, one day after becoming the first national leader to head north of the 60th parallel with a campaign visit to Yellowknife.
When a defence policy wins rave reviews from the defence sector and the NDP, and shows the Grits to be full of hot air, you know it's a winner!
CanWest News Service