Arctic sovereignty slogan masks win for military lobby
ESQUIMALT, BC, July 10, 2007: The $4.3 billion purchase of "up to eight" naval patrol vessels announced here yesterday by Stephen Harper is ostensibly to enforce Arctic sovereignty. The ships may be of little use for this purpose, however, compared with the ice-breakers Harper has promised and apparently decided not to buy, according to international law expert Michael Byers. He says their purchase indicates a victory for the Department of National Defence (DND) and the military lobby over the civilian Coast Guard and civil needs.Why am I not surprised?
...[S]till, he is troubled that Harper has chosen expensive military hardware instead of the promised icebreakers which would have served civilian needs and been civilian- controlled. "There is a crying need to capitalize the Coast Guard icebreaker fleet," which, he says, "has traditionally provided a coastal maritime presence with multi-purpose vessels that deliver supplies, do search and rescue, maintain navigation devices and serve as scientific research platforms."
...[T]he new vessels, capable of breaking only a metre of ice, will not be able to operate effectively in Arctic waters where at least some ice can exceed that thickness at all times of year, says Byers. The advantage for the military is that the ships can operate as small frigates and could be used elsewhere in the world, such as in the Persian Gulf.