Debating Defence and Naval Policy (V)

David Perry: Although the issue seemed quiet, on 2 February, The Ottawa Citizen published another article by David Pugliese, which laid out some of the facts and differing opinions on the government's Arctic policy, specifically the security aspects of that policy. One contentious issue was the apparent government flip-flop on its earlier statement on the plan to acquire three armed icebreakers. Although Gordon O'Connor re-assured the House that, "DND officials are exploring options to improve the Canadian Forces surveillance and response capabilities in the North" and that there will be an "enhanced" military presence in the region, this did not satisfy everyone. Pugliese explained:

“Larry Bagnell, the Liberal MP for the Yukon, said Mr. Harper made very specific promises during the election campaign, including the stationing of three heavy naval icebreakers in the North. The Conservatives' election platform promised a Conservative government would also build a civilian-military deep-water docking facility in the region as well as provide an army emergency response capability for the Arctic through a new airborne battalion. It would also install an underwater surveillance system in the region.”

“But a leaked copy of the government's Canada First Defence Strategy does not include anything about an airborne battalion for the Arctic or heavy icebreakers. Instead it notes the military will be outfitted with Arctic patrol ships. The deep-water docking facility is instead described as a forward operating location for refuelling and berthing military vessels. In addition, the Canadian Forces will "investigate options" for the development of an underwater sensor system.”