28 August 2008
On August 27, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the Canadian Government’s signature national Arctic security project – the new Polar class Arctic Icebreaker - would be named after trailblazing former Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker, one of Canadian history’s all time great champions of developing and protecting the Canadian North.
About John George Diefenbaker
Among his many other accomplishments in a storied and colourful political career, Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker was a life-long champion of investing in and protecting the Canadian North.
The Diefenbaker Government undertook a massive northern infrastructure program called "roads to resources". Over 1400 miles of roads were built across the territories. The program also included new airports and ice roads for winter transport.
Perhaps the most memorable achievement of the Diefenbaker government was building the community of Inuvik itself. The Diefenbaker Government also invested in the Dempster Highway which provided a reliable land-link between Inuvik and southern Canada.
The Rt.Hon.John Diefenbaker also made history when he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to travel north of the Arctic Circle. Having himself lived in the Northwest Territories as a youth, he had tremendous respect for the people of the North and, in particular, the Inuit and other Aboriginal communities.
About the "John G. Diefenbaker" National Icebreaker Project
The Canadian Coast Guard’s most capable icebreaker, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2017.
As such, the Government will replace this vessel with a new polar class icebreaker that has even greater icebreaking capabilities than the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
Designing and building a massive Polar class icebreaker is a major national project. The John G. Diefenbaker is expected to take 8-10 years to design and build and carries a price-tag of $720 million.
The polar icebreaker will be approximately 140 metres in length and capable of sustained operations in the Arctic Archipelago over three seasons per year in very difficult ice conditions. (e.g., the ability to continuously break ice up to 2.5 meters thick). It will carry a crew of approximately 60 with accommodations for an additional 50 people. The polar icebreaker will also be able to accommodate a helicopter when required and has large cargo carrying capacity.
For comparison, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is able to operate two seasons, can continuously break ice up to 1.3 meters thick and has a crew of 44.
The CCGS JOHN G. DIEFENBAKER will:
project a visible presence nine months a year throughout the Arctic portion of Canada’s Economic Exclusive Zone;
promote Arctic science, by providing a platform for the conduct of multi-agency, multi-disciplinary scientific and engineering research and development on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans and other government departments and agencies;
collect weather and ice information through the measurement, monitoring and reporting of weather and ice conditions in all areas of operational interest; and
contribute to continued Northern economic and commercial development.
About the naming process
The Canadian Coast Guard has a ship naming policy, which presents a consistent and logical approach to naming CCG vessels. The objective of the policy is to select names that promote Canadian sovereignty, culture, geography and history. It is also intended to raise the profile of vessels and the work they do by honouring and celebrating people and places of regional and national significance.
Vessel names are brief and easily understood by radiotelephone and other means of communication.
About the procurement/design/construction process
The Coast Guard is still at the preliminary design stage for the acquisition of the polar class icebreaker. A "Request for Proposal" to undertake detailed design would likely be ready by late 2010.