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EDITORIAL: A holistic plan for the North is key for national security

This week we have a story about the Canadian military flip-flopping on whether it needs to use the “green hangar” right outside NORAD’s forward operating base at the airport.
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This week we have a story about the Canadian military flip-flopping on whether it needs to use the “green hangar” right outside NORAD’s forward operating base at the Inuvik airport.

During talks last October, Canadian NORAD Regional Commander Major-General Iain Huddleston said the military no longer needed the building because it had switched to the Airbus C-295 from the historical Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Exactly where the new giant airplane was supposed to hangar if not where the old giant airplane was reliably stored for 14 years is a mystery, but as it turns out the new plane has a series of issues with operations in the North and it’s debatable if it will ever see use up here.

One would assume that means the C-130 would be back parking at the green hangar to ensure search and rescue operations are able to be conducted, but to date that isn’t the case. Instead, it took significant interest from Chinese and Russian buyers for the hangar and the appearance of Chinese spy balloons over Canadian airspace before the military decided to take interest in the asset right outside its doorway.

Ottawa tells us the Canadian Forces are undergoing a rapid modernization. One area NWT MP Michael McLeod — and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley — really needs to put pressure on Defence Minister Anita Anand to do is make sure there is some sort of co-ordination in the military’s plan for Canada’s North. Because it makes absolutely no sense why you would extend a runway 6,000 feet to allow for larger military aircraft to land and not maintain housing for said military aircraft.

But it’s not just Canada’s military that needs to get a holistic plan in place for the North. That plan needs to work in conjunction with Canada’s infrastructure investments in the North as well as plans to establish a Northern Energy Corridor.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War stresses battles are won largely on logistics. With only one road to the Arctic Ocean, Canada is sorely behind on logistics and there’s little the military can actually do beside tough-guy exercises like diving under the ice or snowmobiling from Tuktoyaktuk to Paulatuk and back.

Without reliable, paved roads to strategic locations, those locations are not defensible. Period. Canada can move a large number of troops to the Arctic fairly quickly, but sustaining those troops on air drops over a situation like what’s happening in Ukraine right now? Get real. You need paved roads to move basic weapons of war like food and fuel if our troops are going to have a chance — the Dempster and Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highways aren’t going to cut it.

Even something less geopolitically dramatic but no less deadly, say a Canadian North flight goes down somewhere in the greater Beaufort Delta. How is a sustained, wide-spread, long-term search for a downed aircraft in the thousands of undeveloped kilometres supposed to happen without a warm hangar to operate out of?

Ottawa needs to develop a holistic vision of what it wants the North to look like. Because if we don’t use our North, someone else will.

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About the Author: Eric Bowling

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