CIGI Urges Canada to Increase Arctic Ops, Spur High North Economy

By John Higginbotham
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
John Higginbotham (Photo: CIGI)

To prepare Canada’s northern communities for the “New Arctic,” the federal government needs to devote greater policy attention and resources to strategic Arctic maritime areas such as Nunavut, says a new policy brief issued by The Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

In Nunavut and the New Arctic, CIGI Senior Fellow John Higginbotham highlights the need for basic maritime transport infrastructure in Nunavut, which is the Canadian region with potentially the most to gain from the “great melt.” The territory faces difficulty serving basic community needs and “has a long way to go to fully participate and take advantage of its natural geographic and human strengths in the New Arctic,” according to the CIGI policy brief.

Higginbotham highlights policy issues and infrastructure needs that, if addressed with local and global conditions in mind, will help the vast sea-dependent territory to take advantage of the Arctic’s emerging ice-free environment. These include:

•Much better navigational aids, charting and small-craft harbor facilities, and credible search and rescue and oil spill mitigation capabilities for priority North American Arctic marine corridors;
•An urgent need to invest in ramps, breakwaters and windbreaks for smaller communities;
•Proactive infrastructure support for mining and oil and gas facilities that can be responsibly developed in the next decade;
•A long-term need for a network of Arctic deep water ports, ports of refuge and refuelling facilities;
•Updating transportation safety and security regulatory frameworks to meet unique conditions in the North; and
•Enacting a rigorous code of conduct governing cruise ships and private boats entering Canadian waters, as a step towards large scale, safe and culturally sensitive Arctic cruise tourism.

Higginbotham said that “lack of understanding of Northern conditions often undermines current federal government policies and programs, and lack of understanding of Nunavut’s unique system of governance can slow much needed investment.” He adds that all levels of government should “look to pragmatic, functional solutions to current problems, rather than focusing on large, grandiose projects.”

“Federal infrastructure investment in Nunavut is a continuing obligation, and should be seen as nation building like we have done for centuries in Southern Canada,” Higginbotham said.

The Government of Canada “should launch, with the territories and other players, a strategic North American Arctic marine corridor and port facilities initiative as a way to encourage all possible public and private partners to work to a common purpose.”

Nunavut and the New Arctic is drawn in large part from discussions at CIGI’s multi-stakeholder Arctic Marine Policy and Governance Workshop in Iqaluit, Nunavut, May 1-2, 2013. The workshop is part of CIGI’s global security project on Arctic Governance. To access a free copy of this report, visit:

CIGI Senior Fellow  John Higginbotham is an expert on international economic relations, maritime, air, road and rail transportation systems, and systems of governance.  With over 30 years of service with the Government of Canada, including senior international assignments and coordinating Canada’s successful Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative at Transport Canada, John’s current research focuses on Arctic governance, leading CIGI’s global security research project in this area.

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