18 August 2009
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank Minister Aglukkaq for that kind introduction. I also want to thank her for the tremendous contribution she is making not just as the Member of Parliament for Nunavut, but as Canada's Minister of Health. She brings a whole new perspective to both our caucus and our cabinet.
Welcome also to Minister Strahl, Minister Raitt, Minister LeBreton, Minister MacKay. Premier Aariak, thank you for being here today as well, and thank you for welcoming us to the territory yesterday. Mayor Natak, provincial and municipal dignitaries; ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank all of you for joining us today, and I also want to give a big thanks to John Hussey and the staff here of the Arctic Winter Games Arena for hosting us at this facility.
The Government of Canada is proud to support the repair and the refurbishment of the rink here, and it's great to see that work is well under way. It's also wonderful to be back on beautiful Baffin Island in Canada's newest capital city.
This is the second year in a row our Government has held its summer cabinet meeting in the North. Last year's gathering in Inuvik was the first ever to be held in the territories. This historic decision wasn't sentimental. It was and is a strong signal to the rest of the country of this region's growing importance within Confederation.
Not only is the North a land of raw and majestic beauty that has inspired generations of authors, artists and adventurers, and not only is it the home to a rich culture shaped through the millennia by the wisdom of Aboriginal people, but it also holds the potential to be a transformative economic asset for the country. With immense deposits of valuable natural resources and with a talented, energetic and youthful population, the North's importance has never been greater, even during this time of global economic recession.
Ours is not the first government to recognize the destiny-shaping role the North will play within our country. In a speech launching the country's first northern development program, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker spoke of his vision of the North, and let me quote, "One Canada where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. MacDonald gave his life to this party. He opened the West. He saw Canada from East to West. I see a new Canada, a Canada of the North." In pursuit of this goal, Diefenbaker's government built airports, deployed massive new icebreakers and paved over 2200 kilometres of roads across the territories, including the Dempster Highway, which was opened 30 years ago this very day.
Our Government is the proud inheritor of that Northern legacy, and we are resolutely building upon it. We too have a vision of one Canada, East, West and North. We too realise that Canada's future is inextricably linked to our Northern frontier, and we too have a dream to unleash the region's vast potential.
Indeed, our Government has implemented the most ambitious Northern agenda in Canadian history. Through our Northern strategy, we are forcefully asserting and defending Canada's sovereignty and security in this region. We are protecting the unique and fragile Arctic environment for the generations to come. We are building jobs and opportunity and the health and good governance of Northern communities, and we are encouraging responsible development of the North's abundant economic resources.
Today I'm pleased to announce that our Government is bolstering this Northern agenda through proceeding with the creation of a new development agency exclusively for the territories. It will be headquartered in Iqaluit, with offices in Yellowknife and Whitehorse. The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency will consolidate Northern economic development programs, bolster economic growth in Aboriginal communities, select and coordinate critical infrastructure projects, and help the region's communities adjust to changing economic and environmental conditions.
Ladies and gentlemen, the era of benevolent yet ultimately ineffective paternalism is over. The days of development decisions being made in a city thousands of kilometres away are passed. With the creation of CanNor, our Government wants to empower Northerners and ensure that this region's unique challenges are addressed with input from those right here with their boots on the ground.
Today's announcement stands as a clear demonstration of our Government's commitment to the North, a commitment to its people and a commitment to its future. We know the gaze of other nations is increasingly focused here in our Arctic. By working to reach this region's full potential, including its full economic potential, we are strengthening its people and we are strengthening the sovereignty of our country.