Evidence of meeting #116 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was nato.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chair  Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)
David Barber  Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual
Leona Alleslev  Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, CPC
Frank Baylis  Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.
Stephanie Pezard  Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation
Abbie Tingstad  Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation
Pertti Salolainen  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Tom Packalén  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Paavo Arhinmäki  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Ilkka Kanerva  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Simon Elo  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Stefan Wallin  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Maarit Feldt-Ranta  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland

3:50 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Yes, sure.

I think there are two parts to that question. First, I think it's really important that the government develop an Arctic strategy and that we have some harmonization across the different federal departments and link organizations like mine that are university-based to that kind of structure. Right now things are done in an ad-hoc fashion across the different players in the Arctic.

As far as the way Manitoba fits into this, it will come as a surprise to some of you in the room that Manitoba has the only deepwater Arctic port in North America, and we're a marine-based province. You don't normally think of Manitoba that way, but we are. My group at the University of Manitoba is the largest sea ice research group in the world, 150 people who all work on sea ice.

We're here because Churchill is such an ideal location for that kind of research. It gives you access to the entire Arctic. It's relatively inexpensive to get to because we have a rail line and we have aircraft to get us there, and we put the CHARS base in Cambridge Bay, as an example. We're just building a major research facility in Churchill called the Churchill marine observatory, or CMO as it's called.

It was delayed when the rail line was delayed, but we looked to move it to Cambridge Bay when all of this was happening and looked at the feasibility of having a major marine research base in Cambridge Bay instead of in Churchill. The cost became exorbitant because you have to fly all the time to get all the research staff and students and everybody else into CHARS.

The other really nice thing about Churchill is that it gives you inexpensive access to the Arctic in terms of transportation to get you in and out.

The Arctic marine system is just like the rest of the Arctic. You're above the treeline and all the processes that go on are truly Arctic in nature. It also has this interesting additional parallel in that you receive a lot of fresh water into Hudson Bay, which is analogous to what's going on in the High Arctic. If you look down at the North Pole and you see that big Arctic Ocean, it's also receiving a lot of fresh water from the continents, both on the North American side and the Russian side.

We use Hudson Bay almost like a model system of what the High Arctic is doing. It's giving us advance notice because it's at a little lower latitude so climate change is affecting it a little more slowly and it allows us to understand how things work there. From my perspective, Manitoba and Hudson Bay and Churchill are critical to our understanding of what's going on in the High Arctic and in the Arctic in a circumpolar sense. To me, it should play a very central role in any future strategy for the Arctic that we do as a country.

The other benefit is that the central and Arctic region of Fisheries and Oceans is now separating into two departments. One will be the Arctic and the other will be the central. The Arctic region of DFO will be situated in Winnipeg, so it's another good reason for Manitoba to play a central role in what's going on federally with the Arctic.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much for all of that.

Obviously in part of this study there has been a lot of talk about the need for infrastructure investment in particular. But I have found that the conversation has been most productive when we talk about specific needs as opposed to the general overwhelming need for a lot of infrastructure in the Arctic.

With respect to Churchill, obviously there has been investment recently in the rail line. It took a long time to get it back up, but we got there eventually. I'm wondering, beyond simply repairing the rail line, what other kinds of projects would be useful to advance Churchill either as a place for Arctic research or other aspects that you would want to see in an Arctic strategy.

3:55 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

I think that I'd like to talk about this as two different scales.

Churchill is fine. It's kind of a local connection with both you and I, both being Manitobans, and it's an important part of the Arctic puzzle, but I think investments in that area are very important. I think that one of the key things is getting that rail line and port fully functional.

The next natural step for this is the marine transportation in that corridor, which comes into and out of the port of Churchill. We expect to be able to ship year-round through that mechanism within the next 20 to 30 years. There will be a period of time there where you'll need icebreaker support. Right now we use icebreaker support down the St. Lawrence Seaway. That's what our research icebreaker does in the winter time. It provides support for commercial traffic along the shipping route through the St. Lawrence.

We should develop a similar situation in the Arctic, in Hudson Bay in particular. We should have icebreaker support for ships to extend the shipping season into and out of the port. That is an important sovereignty issue because then we have a Canadian ship and we extend the Canadian shipping seasons in the Arctic.

It would also have a direct component that would address search and rescue requirements in the north. Right now, we suffer from a lot of involvement in the north, both a lot more Inuit activity and a lot of search and rescue that's associated with the indigenous people who live there. Also, the tourist trade is just exploding in the north. We're getting a lot of tour ships coming in, everything from small schooners to people doing crazy things like trying to go to the North Pole on a dirt bike—all kinds of weird things that people do. Search and rescue becomes a very important thing.

We always struggle with search and rescue because we don't have enough capacity built into the north. The Coast Guard, for the last year and a half or so, has been developing local bases around the north to support and stimulate search and rescue capacity, but of course, we also need more ships to be able to do this. So that we can properly manage the Arctic, we need more icebreakers that are under the purview of the Canadian Coast Guard so that it can properly service search and rescue with regard to big ships that get stuck in ice, for instance, or that have oil spills or those kinds of things.

From a marine perspective, I think we need resources that are invested in new icebreakers that will do a stopgap against some of this increasing pressure and increasing availability. We need some short-term solutions and some long-term solutions. They have to do with improving search and rescue capacity, improving baselines of scientific knowledge about what is where, what the bathymetry looks like and how we can have safe shipping lanes, and then investing in some plans to get some new icebreaker support into the country to take the pressure off of this aging fleet that we have.

4 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

4 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you very much.

MP Baylis, please.

November 26th, 2018 / 4 p.m.

Frank Baylis Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Professor Barber, you talked about those 40 years that you were in the Arctic. You said that for the first 10 years you were kind of skeptical about climate change. Then you said that in the next 10 years you started to see some distinct signals. Then you said that in the following 10 years it got very dramatic and that in these last 10 years it's actually accelerating.

You are someone who was maybe skeptical of climate change, and by seeing it in the north, your world view on that has been changed. Is that correct?

4 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Yes. That's very true. That's fair to say.

During my first 10 years, the models that we were using at the time suggested that we should see the first and strongest signs of climate change in the Arctic. However, in the first 10 years that we were there, we didn't see it, so as any good scientist would do, I became skeptical. I thought, “No, this is not happening. We're not seeing these kinds of relationships.”

Then, as I went forward in my career, I started to see these things speeding up to a point where it's very dramatic. We overwintered our research icebreaker in the southern Beaufort Sea, north of Tuktoyaktuk, during the International Polar Year in 2007, and we kept the ship mobile all winter.

I went to the Coast Guard and said that we would be able to do this because of the change in climate, and they thought I was crazy. They said, “There's no way. We're going to be stuck in that ice, and we're going to circulate around, and the Russians are going to have to come and take us off of their side of the Beaufort Sea.”

I said that, no, we were going to be able to stay mobile throughout that year, and we did. We kept the ship mobile all the way through. That should not have been possible. Historically, that ice should have been much more consolidated than it was, and it's because there just isn't as much ice, even in the wintertime.

4 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.

Frank Baylis

I understand that.

Given your perspective as a scientist, you were someone who was maybe leaning on one side and not sure about climate change, and now you've seen the dramatic effects and you're saying that it's even accelerating.

If we come further south, people are just starting to see the effects in the southern climates, such as the forest fires, the floods, the tornadoes where they shouldn't be—just the beginning of it. Is there some way that you could be messaging more strongly or helping through a scientific way to dramatize the changes that you've seen to accelerate people here in learning the same path that you've had to go through? Do you follow me?

4 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Yes, I hear what you're saying. It's a question I get all the time. It kind of asks what science can do to help educate the public about what's going on with climate change, and then people have to pay attention to it. The problem is that I spent a fair bit of time, maybe five or seven years ago, doing that. I do a lot of public speaking with what I do with my research, and I've kind of come to a conclusion. That conclusion is that if people want to get educated, they will. They can learn about these things. You can find it everywhere. It's all over the place.

The problem is that people don't really want to know about it. They don't want to hear about these things. They want to go on with their—

4:05 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.

Frank Baylis

The problem is that a problem's not a problem until it's a problem for you, and it's not a problem yet for us down here, but you see it being a problem up there.

Let me ask you another question. Regarding the Inuit, you said the Russians are exploiting.... We use that term. We “exploit” minerals but we also exploit people. I'm just curious. You have an argument that there's more to be done for us to “exploit” our resources and that. Do the Inuit people want us up there exploiting? Is that really the approach we should be taking, or should we be maybe rethinking climate change and maybe instead of saying it is going to happen, maybe try to stop it? Would the average Inuit be excited about this or against us coming up to exploit the situation?

4:05 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

The situation with our Arctic in particular is unique because we've settled land claims there, and ownership of a lot of these resources lies with the Inuit who live there, so they're responsible for these things. I was at one of the COP meetings in Germany last year—COP21 I guess it was—and I was approached by a fellow who wanted to turn the entire Arctic into a park because they wanted to preserve everything and not have any development go on whatsoever. He was wondering if I would sign on to support such an idea. I explained to him that, well, the Inuit actually need to develop their economies, they want to develop their economies, they want to use resources to do that and these are their resources. Who am I to say that, because we created climate change as a problem in the north, we want to turn the whole thing into a park. It seems a bit self-serving from my perspective when the Inuit are not averse to development. They want development.

Economic development, for instance at the community level, is happening all over the Arctic. Everybody's creating economic organizations that will help them, doing chambers of commerce types of processes. When you talk to the Inuit leadership, they're all about how they can manage those resources to make sure they can develop an economy that they can then use to forward their ambitions and goals as a people, without having the reliance on funds from the south. I think this is a very important part of the development process. When I talk about development in the north, it's development in the north by northerners for northerners. It's not about development from the south. We'll have to stimulate it by helping with infrastructure and putting some of the partnerships in place.

4:05 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.

Frank Baylis

What you're saying is that the average Inuit and the average Inuit leadership would be open for themselves to develop it in a certain way.

4:05 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Yes, absolutely. They're very much for that. They all have economic arms of their land title and land agreement processes, so they're very interested in economic development because they have to look to the future. How are they going to raise their kids? How are they going to have a stable society?

4:05 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.

Frank Baylis

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you very much.

We will now move to MP Wrzesnewskyj, please.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you.

I'm just curious, following up on something that Mr. Baylis said. Are there any climate change skeptics left in the Arctic?

4:05 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

I've never met one.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Okay, thank you.

When you were talking about the icebreakers, you said the current fleet is 40 years old, etc. We're starting to build some new ones. If you project out 30 or 40 years, that's perhaps stretching the lifespan of these icebreakers, but from what you've seen how do you imagine the ice conditions will be 20, 30 or 40 years hence?

4:05 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

It's a really good question.

This is something I get quite a lot, in that the thought on such a thing is that the ice is disappearing and we're not going to have that thick ice and it's not going to be really hard and difficult to navigate through, so why are we going to need icebreakers? In fact, in the short term over the next 10 to 20 years we will still have a lot of ice hazards, and even beyond that, as we start to form new ice.

Let's say we get rid of the multi-year sea ice. Here's a little background. When the sea ice survives a summer and starts to regrow the next year, we call that multi-year sea ice. This stuff has an average thickness of six metres or so. It's very hard and very difficult to navigate through with a ship. When you get annual ice—when you remove that multi-year sea ice and you just have annual ice that year—it only grows to a maximum of two metres thick. In the wintertime, we will form that kind of ice well into the future. The next 100 years or so will form this kind of ice.

What happens, and what is really critical to understand, is that the ice becomes more mobile. Because it's more mobile and moves around a lot, it bumps into other ice, and it will form ridges and rubble areas that can still be quite thick. We've seen this starting to happen in different parts of the Arctic, and there are periods of time when you would need an icebreaker to be able to manage that kind of ice. There will be other times when you won't need that kind of icebreaker.

Over the next 30 to 40 years you will still require icebreakers at certain times of year in certain locations if you want to be able to navigate in an unimpinged fashion. Right now, the only group on the planet that can do this are the Russians. They're the only ones who can go wherever they want in the Arctic, whenever they want. We can't, the Europeans can't and the Americans can't.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

You led right into my follow-up question. I understand that they have the thickest hulls, which are able to go through much thicker ice than our icebreakers. Do you think we need at least one of those types of ships or is that overkill?

4:10 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

No. We need to have a proper polar-class icebreaker and we've been trying to get one for decades. The Diefenbaker is currently the incarnation of that. It's been provisionally funded and supposedly it's going to be developed, but we're kind of trapped in this situation of building our icebreakers inside our own Canadian system. To be honest, it's taking a long time to do this, because with the shipyards we have we're getting a lot of pressure on them to build these things, and the timelines are getting extended and extended.

I'll give you an example of the practicalities of this. This year, my group is going to do a circumnavigation of Greenland in an icebreaker. The north end of Greenland has some of the thickest and heaviest ice that we have left on the planet and to get around that north end of Greenland is very difficult. We have a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker doing an escort of our icebreaker around the north end of Greenland so that we can get through that condition.

We were just told about a month ago or so that our research icebreaker, which is the Amundsen, will be unavailable for that cruise because it has to go into dry dock. It has more problems. This has been a typical problem with the Amundsen. It's basically falling apart because it's over 40 years old. Instead, we're taking a second Russian icebreaker on this thing. We're taking a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker and a Russian electric icebreaker to do this circumnavigation of Greenland.

Here's an international science project going on in the Arctic and all supported by Russian infrastructure. That's a really bad sign when we can't even get our Canadian infrastructure to collaborate with the Russians on a circumnavigation of Greenland. We don't have enough stability in our icebreaker fleet to be able to do that. I think that's a real problem for us as a nation.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

I'd like to pass this on to Mr. Falcon Ouellette.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Barber. I appreciate the opportunity of having you speak.

I'm going to toss out three questions that I'd like to have answered.

First, you've talked about sovereignty and you've talked about Churchill. I was wondering if you could discuss the idea of having a full-time military base in the Arctic, which I think would be quite important.

Also, you mentioned the idea of the lack of information in the mapping of the islands and how deep some of the waters are around there. Who should be tasked with doing the mapping? Should it be the Canadian military or should it be researchers? The old British Navy used to do this in Canadian waters. In the St. Lawrence, they used to drop the little rope and measure to see how deep it was in certain spots.

Finally, you mentioned tourism. What types of permits should we require from people who are going into the Arctic in order to control their movement? Should we be providing permits to ensure that people go up there safely and in such a way that if they do have a spill, for instance, or some disaster, we are able to monitor it? Obviously that's part of your research as well.

That's on base mapping of the Arctic Ocean sea and the permitting or monitoring of people who are going in and out of the Arctic, please.

4:10 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Dr. Barber, before you begin your answer let me throw a little water on this. We have about two and a half minutes for your answer, because our other witnesses have just arrived.

Sorry to my colleague. It's a good question.

Maybe it's something you can follow up with the committee in writing. Take a couple of minutes and then we're going to have to move on to the other witnesses.

Thank you, sir.

4:10 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Okay, the Reader's Digest version is that we need a military base in the north for sure. It's being developed right now in Resolute Bay. The polar continental shelf project is doubling up as a forward operating base for our Canadian Forces.

They do a lot of programs right now with training and stuff, and I think that needs to continue. We need to become much more experienced with our military in the north to be able to operate there efficiently and effectively, and we need to deal with indigenous people as part of that. They're the ones who have the expertise on the land. This whole deal of the rangers and how the rangers fit into our military is a very important one from my perspective.

The second one had to do with Churchill and what role Churchill could play in that. Of course, Churchill used to be a military base. That's how it was formed initially, so reinstating that as a forward operating base is also quite possible. I think, more likely, that would be a good place for a navy type of base to be, where the navy can operate out of Hudson Bay and the deepwater port that's there.

I can't remember the third question.