Mr. Speaker, this issue is new to me. I deliberately hesitated to get up early in the rotation to speak to this motion because I was hoping that by listening to the speakers ahead of me I would hear some reasonable argument as to why we would support such a motion. Unfortunately I have not heard anything except a lot of political blathergab in the discussion so far.
I cannot understand why we would consider supporting such a motion. My riding borders on the 60th parallel as does the riding of the member for Churchill River. We are not below the 60th parallel within the boundaries of the northern frigid zone. We are clearly in the northern boreal forest.
The northern provincial boundaries have been in place since 1906. Certainly if we were to consider changing the boundaries, if it were to make any sense in my opinion at least, the boundaries would be moved north so that the boundaries followed the southern limit of the Arctic Barrens. The Inuit people have occupied the Arctic Barrens for thousands of years and live in conditions that are similar to other aboriginal people in other barren regions around the pole.
To suggest that the 60th parallel would be moved south and include that part of the province between the 55th and 60th parallels under some guise of being beneficial to the aboriginal people who might live in that area does not make any sense at all. The aboriginal people who live between the 55th and 60th parallels are under the jurisdiction of the federal government now as are those north of the 60th parallel. I fail to see how moving the boundary down would have any great impact on the aboriginal people living between the two parallels. There can be some argument made for differentiating in either Canadian sovereign policy or international policy how we deal with the Barrens and the high Arctic where the environment is extremely fragile.
I spent most of my working years in that part of Canada. Man's footprint on that part of the globe is not there today and gone tomorrow. Once a footprint is made in the permafrost it is there for eternity. The scars that man leaves on the landscape not only stay there, they are magnified over time.
There is a unique quality to Canada's Arctic that needs special consideration and a special policy. There would be some merit in developing that policy in conjunction with our northern neighbours.
I can see nothing that would be involved in moving that parallel south except a huge fight with the provinces. Immediately, and rightly so, it would be viewed by the provinces as nothing short of a resource grab by the federal government. In my constituency, in my province, there are huge and valuable resources. There is tar sand development, heavy oil development, mineral development, diamond exploration, with future development in the diamond mining industry, as well as forestry and other valuable natural resources, which I believe the provinces would be most hesitant to part with.
When we look at what we have already done with the Canadian initiative in the Arctic council, we have to wonder. There were some serious questions raised about the benefits of the Arctic council and the cost of Canada belonging to it. Instead of giving more territory, more bureaucracy and more dollars to it, let us look at and evaluate the value of the Arctic council, which has existed since 1996. Let us see if we are getting value for our dollar from the investment we have already made in this Arctic initiative.
Personally, I cannot understand what the benefit was for Canada or what was received in terms of value for our dollar. I do not want to single out the Arctic council. There are other international organizations to which Canada pays a substantial amount of money to belong that do not demonstrate great value for the dollars invested.
The whole idea lacks credibility. From what I have heard in discussion and from what I have read in Hansard , it has no merit. The people and the countries between the 60th and 55th parallels have little in common with the true Arctic regions of Canada and, for that matter, the rest of the world. It would not make sense or add up to any benefit either for the people or for the territory. Unless I am misinterpreting the whole issue, I cannot see how we would do that.
Other countries, such as the United States for example, have not been particularly enthusiastic about the issue of the Arctic council, an international group formulating Arctic policy. That may go back to the concern of the United States over national security and national defence and the fact that the Canadian initiative on the Arctic council does not extend to matters dealing with military and national security. Of course Alaska is within the area, so the United States has a fair stake within the Arctic region, but it does not seem to be particularly enthusiastic.
It is certainly important that we maintain friendly and co-operative relationships with our Arctic neighbours, those who share the Arctic with us, but I fail to see why we would enter into these kinds of agreements specifically to deal with an area that is not even identifiable as being separate from other areas of Canada, because, as I say, a good part of the area is part of the northern boreal forest and not the Canadian or international Arctic region.
I am not advocating that we should not meet and maintain relations with our international neighbours, but I fail to see the worth of creating this bureaucracy and having it grow any further than it already has.
I have not heard any significant argument in favour of this motion and, therefore, I would urge my colleagues in my party and my colleagues in the House to vote against it, simply because there are no substantive or valid reasons why we should go down the road the motion is suggesting, and because the bad will, the cost and all of the other things involved would not be worth the benefit which we would achieve.