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Prime Minister Stephen Harper shifted his political message in the North Thursday after he met Nunavut Premier Eve Aariak and faced media questions about the immense social challenges here.
RANKIN INLET, NUNAVUT—On a day he intended to highlight more money for mining development, Prime Minister Stephen Harper shifted his political message in the North after he met Nunavut Premier Eve Aariak and faced media questions about the immense social challenges here.
Those had largely gone unmentioned by the prime minister during his eighth annual Arctic tour. Instead it has focused on resource development and Arctic sovereignty. Thursday was also supposed to boost the prime minister’s credentials as a supporter of basic science.
In Rankin Inlet, on the northwest coast of Hudson’s Bay, Harper, who is frequently criticized for failing to back scientific research and accused of muzzling scientists, threw his weight behind a major geological research project and brought geologists along to tell everyone about it.
The Conservative government will extend for another seven years a $100-million program that was begun in 2008 and due to end this year. The same amount of money will now stretch over the extension.
Its goal is to complete the geological mapping of Canada’s North by 2020 — a move Harper promised would boost mineral exploration and development, bringing jobs to places like Rankin Inlet.
But in a territory where housing needs are overwhelming, family violence clogs courts, and a major study says the suicide rate has stubbornly remained about 10 times the national average for the past 40 years, the social problems are overwhelming.
Nunavut reporters asked the prime minister if he’s left social problems up to the territorial governments, or if he thinks economic development will naturally bring social development along with it.
Harper said: “I think that is both true and not true.” Economic development is “critical to social development” and can help provide flows of private money “which can be, frankly, much greater than governments can ever create.
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