North American leaders grapple with infrastructure development in volatile Arctic

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Premier of Yukon pushes for northern sovereignty on North American stage.

On July 26, Sandy Silver spoke at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Summit, during a session titled Economic Development Challenges in a Volatile Arctic.

Silver noted Russia’s aggression in Ukraine tied to economic opportunities and navigable waters in the Northwest Passage, which is the route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Arctic Ocean.

“The Yukon is really at the forefront of a whole bunch of really complicated conversations,” he said.

The PNWER annual meeting was held in Calgary July 24-28. It is designed to bring together people from politics and business to reflect on the challenges facing the Pacific Northwest – Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Northwest and Saskatchewan. About half of the attendees are from the private sector, along with about 60 legislators and representatives from universities, governments and nonprofit organizations.

Yukon Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai, who did not attend the conference, sits on the PNWER executive committee and usually attends the annual gathering.

Silver told the audience how the territory is making progress on the Arctic front through talks with different levels of government across the country at various forums, including a recent First Ministers meeting at the Council of the Federation in mid-July.

“If Arctic sovereignty no longer exists, then we are all in danger. You know, it took us 25 years to get our [Canadian] The new northern ranger rifles… we have nuclear technology from other countries in our circumpolar region, so we did kind of a traveling tour on the importance of sovereign communities with our prime ministers,” he said .

Silver said he was ultimately trying to influence the business community on the importance of telecommunications and health care.

“How can I convince people who are here for economic purposes how important telecommunications and health care in our most remote communities are to you and affect your daily life? Because it really is,” he said..

Silver said a lot has changed in the North and Yukon since the Cold War.

“Since then, we’ve had most of Canada’s self-governing First Nations here in the Yukon,” Silver said.

“The most important thing we can do, as opposed to ‘use it or lose it,’ is invest in our communities, in our northerners and in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.”

Geopolitical and climatic context

Silver explained how Canada’s approach has moved away from the old “use it or lose it” mentality of the Cold War era to this new approach of building resilient communities.

High-level officials from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska met in Alberta to discuss Arctic infrastructure development in what one leader called “frightening” geopolitical circumstances given of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Silver spoke with Alaska State Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer of the Republican Party and Caroline Wawzonek, Northwest Territories Minister of Finance and Industry, Tourism and Investment, which has a non-partisan consensus government.

The panel examined current geopolitical changes and their implications for the security and development of the North American Arctic. It was intended to address the needs of northern communities and cross-border double-spending.

“When we talk about everything from potash development to critical mineral strategy, Yukon is extremely poised to move forward because of our excellent rapport and relationships with Yukon First Nation governments,” said Silver. .

Break the rules of the road

Moderated by lead researcher John Higginbotham of Carleton University, the typical focus on relations with Ottawa and Washington was dropped during the panel of northernmost counterparts in the Pacific Northwest economic region.

“Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is, in my opinion, the most dangerous geopolitical earthquake I have felt in many, many years,” Higginbotham said.

“Putin tore up the international rules of the road.”

In his summit biography, Higginbotham previously spent 35 years working with the Government of Canada and served as assistant deputy minister in three federal departments.

Higginbotham summed up the costs of inflation, manipulation of gas and oil markets, food supply and more when it comes to developing better infrastructure. He warned that Russia’s aggression is far from over.

“The war hasn’t even, some say, really started in terms of the new type of perpetual cold war that we’re going to face with Russia given the atrocities they committed in Ukraine and what it reveals on their historical tensions and willingness to take risks in a stable international environment,” he said.

The federal government has imposed a list of sanctions in response to Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attack on Ukraine since February 24.

New currency

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau pledged to deliver a new approach in December 2016. Released September 2019 and co-developed by Indigenous representatives, the three territories, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland and -Labrador, the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework embodies the basic principle: “Nothing about us, without us.”

Two of its eight goals emphasize the rules-based international order and ensure that people in the Arctic and the North are safe, secure and well-defended.

“As the region becomes increasingly accessible due to the effects of climate change and improvements in cold weather technologies, the region is emerging as an area of ​​international strategic, military and economic importance, with Arctic and non-Arctic states expressing a variety of interests in the region’s potential,” the frame reads.

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada is the lead department.

The end date of the framework lands in 2030.

The Yukon has yet to release its chapter of the framework.

Silver said the framework required federal funds.

In an interview with the New after the panel, Silver explained his priorities for interdependence on Canada-US projects, including the Alaska Highway linking Haines, Alaska, and Beaver Creek, Yukon, and the redevelopment of the Port of Skagway, Alaska.

He agrees with what Higginbotham said about the issue of implementation versus ambition when it comes to overall infrastructure development in the Arctic.

Contact Dana Hatherly at [email protected]

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