Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper – Geo-mapping for Northern Energy and Minerals Program Speech – 26 August 2008, Ottawa, Ontario

Honourable Prime Minister of Canada - Stephen Harper

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  First of all, thank you Gary Lunn for your introduction, and thank you for all the work you’ve done as our Minister of Natural Resources to make today’s important announcement possible.  Greetings to Daniel Caron, Jeffrey Murray and to everyone here who has joined us at the Library and Archives Canada, which is acting as our gracious host this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, later today I will begin another tour of Canada’s North.  I’ve done this at least once each year since becoming Prime Minister.  I look forward to going north because I see some of Canada’s most spectacular landscapes and I meet some of Canada’s most hardy and dynamic people.  As Prime Minister, I have visited all of the territorial capitals, met polar bears in Churchill, tried dog sledding in Yellowknife.  I’ve looked over the breathtaking Nahanni Falls, visited the future site of a year-round military training base at Resolute Bay, concluded a land claims agreement at Kuujuuaq and stood at the future deep water port of Nanasivik. 

I’ve even dipped my toe into the Arctic Ocean at Alert, the northernmost human settlement on Earth.  Each time I do this, it’s really a great experience, and I come back to Ottawa inspired by the vastness, the beauty and the potential of our North.  And each time I return more determined than ever to draw the gaze of all Canadians northward. 

On this trip, our itinerary includes Tuktoyaktuk, Dawson City and Inuvik, the Arctic community that was founded by Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s government in the late 1950s.  While visiting Inuvik, I will meet with the premiers of the territorial governments and with Aboriginal community leaders.  We will also hold the first ever federal cabinet meeting north of 60.  This trip is historic and it demonstrates once again the importance our Government places on the North.  With the retreat of polar ice, increasing navigability of the Northwest Passage and the growing global interest in Arctic resources, Canada faces unprecedented opportunities, but also unprecedented challenges in the North.

To face this future head-on, our Government has launched an ambitious Northern agenda based on the timeless responsibility imposed by our national anthem, to keep the True North strong and free.  To this end, we will encourage responsible development of the North’s bountiful economic resources and we will ensure jobs and opportunities and the health and good governance of Northern communities.  We will protect the unique and fragile Arctic ecosystem for the generations yet to come, and of course we will assert and defend Canada’s sovereignty and security in our Arctic.

This coming northern tour begins today with the announcement of a new initiative that will boost our knowledge of the North and its opportunities.  A search for greater information about the Arctic has deep roots in our history.  In fact, it is a 400-year-old quest that is symbolized by the maps assembled here at the foyer today at the National Archives.  The explorers and adventurers who charted the Arctic overcame tremendous odds and endured terrible hardships, but through the sacrifices of people like Hudson, Franklin, MacKenzie, Amundsen, Bernier and so many more, the ageless mystery of Canada’s Arctic was transformed slowly into a tangible reality.  And this spirit of discovery is alive and well today. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very pleased to announce that our Government is launching the new geo-mapping for energy and mineral resources program.  It will use state of the art geological science and technology to map the energy and mineral potential of the North.  Researchers on the ground and aboard aircraft fitted with specialized sensors will gather data on the geological characteristics of all of our Northern territories.  This information will be used to create geological models of the Arctic, subterranean maps that will help future resource producers find the treasures buried there.  An advisory group of Northerners, including Aboriginal community representatives, will lend their experience and expertise to this research. 

We know from over a century of northern resource exploration that there is gas in the Beaufort, oil in the Eastern Arctic, and gold in the Yukon.  There are diamonds in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and countless other precious resources buried under the sea ice and tundra, from the MacKenzie Valley to Ellesmere Island to Ungava Bay.  But what we’ve found so far is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas lies under the Arctic.  Managed properly, Canada’s share of this incredible endowment will fuel the prosperity of our country for generations.

Geo-mapping will pave the way for the resource development of the future.  It will also help us anticipate the infrastructure needs of the North, to ensure that the communities that grow alongside industry are healthy and stable.  And it will help us plan policies that do a better job of balancing economic development and environmental protection.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, the geo-mapping project is part of a larger plan to map and chart Canada’s North, to continue the bold tradition of exploration that has defined our history, and to strengthen our understanding and our sovereignty over a region that will define our future.  As I’ve said before, use it or lose it is the first principle of Arctic sovereignty.  To develop the North, we must know the North.  To protect the North, we must control the North.  To accomplish all our goals for the North, we must be in the North.

Thank you very much.