Vive Le Canada

Harper's Arctic stand makes for grand politics
Date: Saturday, January 28 2006
Topic:


But U.S. has better legal argument

Jan. 28, 2006. 01:00 AM
THOMAS WALKOM

Surprise. It seems that Stephen Harper will save us from the Americans. At least that's what the prime minister-designate volunteered to reporters this week when, at the end of his first formal news conference since winning Monday's election, he answered a question no one had asked.

The unasked question had to do with something David Wilkins, Washington's ambassador to Canada, said on Wednesday. Apparently Wilkins told an audience at London's University of Western Ontario that Harper's plans to militarize the Northwest Passage running through Canada's Arctic were ill advised since, in Washington's view, these are international waters.

The adroit ambassador can always be counted on to say something that lets Canadian prime ministers stand up and pound their nationalist breasts. In December, he gave Liberal Leader Paul Martin a boost in the polls by attacking him for criticizing George W. Bush. This week, it was Harper's turn to get a helping hand.

"The United States defends its sovereignty; the Canadian government will defend our sovereignty," the Conservative leader warned sternly on Thursday. "It is the Canadian people that we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States."

Huzzah. Take that, George W.

In fact, most media hadn't paid attention to Wilkins' remarks, largely because they weren't news. The United States, as well as Japan and the European Union, insist that the ice-choked passage, which winds through the archipelago of the Canadian Arctic to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is an international waterway.

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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 29, 2006]

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