The Conservative Party says Trudeau government plans to strengthen Canada’s northern airspace defence capabilities are “hollow promises.”
Bob Zimmer, the shadow minister for northern affairs, was responding to the announcement of a $4.9-billion plan to modernize defence of Canadian airspace.
The federal plan includes new radar-based surveillance systems for monitoring northern airspace and investments in new military infrastructure and bases across northern Canada.
But Zimmer said the plan came with “few details and no timelines.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, Zimmer alleged the planned sale of a hangar at Inuvik’s airport, owned by a private company that services Norad aircraft and supports military and civilian air operations in the Arctic, in effect demonstrated “the government putting up a for-sale sign on a crucial Norad facility.”
International Logistical Support’s large, green hangar at the airport is listed at $19.5 million. A brochure advertising the hangar calls it “the only facility in the Western Arctic capable of hangaring the RCAF C130 air-to-air refueler” and a facility “critical to any resource development and exploration.”
Addressing a senate committee in 2019, ILS president Les Klapatiuk said the company was at the time negotiating with the Department of National Defence over its hangarage contract, which was in jeopardy.
Klapatiuk asked senators: “Why is Canada divesting of some of the very few assets that they have in the Arctic? It begs the question, does Arctic defence and search and rescue really matter?”
Zimmer, who attended this month’s Arctic Development Expo in Inuvik and spoke with Klapatiuk, told the House of Commons: “Without this hangar, the refuelling tankers are being pushed outside and now take hours to prep in -40C and worse winter conditions. Any quick response is now off the table.”
He asked national defence minister Anita Anand to visit Inuvik, stating Canada is “more at-risk in the Arctic than ever before.”
Speaking last month, Anand pointed to the extension of Inuvik’s airport runway as a demonstration of the federal government’s commitment to the town as a forward operating base for Norad.
“As we advance Canada’s continental defence and Norad modernization priorities, there will be even more opportunities for partnering with our domestic defence industry,” Anand said in May.