Calling the Liberal bluff
Today, in a letter to Defence Minister Graham, retired Brigadier General and Conservative Defence Critic Gordon O'Connor called the Liberal bluff on arctic sovereignty:
In a press conference on Monday, I called on your government to answer several questions concerning this potential violation of our sovereignty. I have yet to receive a response from you or any government official. So today I am writing to put these questions directly to you:
- Was the Government of Canada aware of this particular voyage into Canadian territorial waters?
- If your government was aware of this voyage, did it grant permission for it to occur?
- If your government did not grant such permission, what specific actions have you or your government taken to protest this apparent violation of Canadian sovereignty?
- Is the government aware of other unauthorized foreign naval voyages that may have occurred in Canadian territorial waters without the permission or knowledge of the Canadian government?
- What concrete measures are in your government’s plan to prevent such unauthorized incursions into Canadian territorial waters in the future?
Sovereignty must be enforced to be credible with respect to international law. It is not good enough to say we are sovereign, we must demonstrate our sovereignty. I and all Canadians would like to know the specifics of your plan to defend our northern sovereignty.
Well done, sir. Better for the Conservatives to call the Liberal bluff on Canadian arctic sovereignty than to continue to have the Americans, Russians, Chinese, British and French do it (the five countries widely presumed to operate submarines in our arctic waters as they please).
I especially like Mr. O'Connor's last sentence. He knows full well that the Liberals have no specific plan to defend our arctic sovereignty.
But the Conservatives do:
“The single most important duty of the federal government is to protect and defend our national sovereignty,” said Mr. Harper. “You need forces on the ground, ships in the sea, and proper surveillance.”
The announcement is part of the “Canada First” defence strategy and the plan to significantly enhance our military presence in the Artic includes:
- Stationing three new armed naval heavy ice breakers in the area of Iqaluit which will include 500 regular force personnel for crews and support;
- Building a new military/civilian deep-water docking facility in the Iqaluit area;
- Establishing a new Arctic National Sensor System for northern waters which will include underwater surveillance technologies;
- Building a new Arctic army training centre in the area of Cambridge Bay on the Northwest Passage staffed by an estimated 100 regular force personnel;
- Stationing new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft in Yellowknife;
- Providing eastern and western Arctic air surveillance through stationing new long range uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) squadrons at CFB Goose Bay and CFB Comox;
- Revitalizing the Canadian Rangers by recruiting up to 500 additional Rangers increasing their level of training, activity, and equipment; and
- Providing an army emergency response capability through the new airborne battalion and airlift capacity stationed at CFB Trenton to provide a rapid emergency response capability throughout the entire Arctic region.
Every single one of those steps makes sense. Every one.
The only thing they didn't do was station a significant regular army unit in the north, but by giving the coverage mandate to the new Airborne, beefing up the Rangers, and establishing an army training centre for arctic ops, at least they're trying to cover that need off.
It's long past time that Canada had a coherent strategy to deal with the sovereignty issues posed by a land mass the size of Europe but with one of the most inhospitable climates this side of the moon. If it's to remain the Canadian North, then Canadians need to control what goes on up there.
The Liberals posture. The Conservatives have a workable plan. The choice couldn't be clearer.