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Arctic scarcity: Nunavut airports run out of fuel

[PoliticsWatch updated 4:30 p.m. August 20, 2007]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brought international attention to Canada's North with his Arctic sovereignty campaign. 

OTTAWA  —  At the same time Prime Minister Stephen Harper brings international attention to Canada's North, three airports in Nunavut had to turn back planes last week because they ran out of fuel.     

Two weeks ago, Harper spent several days in Canada's North where he announced billions in new federal spending for Arctic ice breakers, a deep water port and a military training facility. 

"Canada’s new government understands that the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is use it or lose it,” the prime minister said while on his trip. 

Harper's foray into Arctic sovereignty has attracted international headlines along with Russia's provocative stunt on August 2 to plant a flag on the seabed of the North Pole. The Russian move was an attempt to bolster the country's claim to the North Pole. 

While the Canadian government plans on beefing up the military presence in the North, regular civilian infrastructure and transportation problems continue to occur for people living in the region. 

Shawn Maley, assistant deputy minister for Nunavut's community and government services department, told CBC News that jet fuel shortages at airports are not unusual. 

The airports in Rankin Inlet, Resolute Bay and Baker Lake ran out of jet fuel last week, according to NAV Canada. Rankin Inlet is considered a transportation hub for Nunavut. 

An airline that services the airports said it had to turn back two flights on Thursday. 

The Nunavut government said it would airlift fuel to the community to resupply the airports. 

Air service is critical for some remote northern communities which rely on food mail delivered by air. 

Meanwhile, Harper will continue to press the Arctic sovereignty issue on the international stage on Monday when he holds a bilateral meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the North American Leaders' Summit in Montebello, Quebec. 

The White House disagrees with Canada's position that the Northwest Passage is Canadian territory and it disputes Canada's claim to parts of the Beaufort Sea, which is believed to be oil rich. 

"We look at the Northwest Passage as an international waterway, and want the international transit rights to be respected there," Gordon Johndroe, special assistant to Bush, told reporters aboard Air Force One Monday. "But certainly President Bush will listen to what Prime Minister Harper has to say."

Denmark is also looking to extend its claims in the Arctic. It recently sent a research team to the Arctic to seek evidence that the Lomonosov Ridge underwater mountain range is attached to the Danish territory of Greenland. 

:  Related Links

> Bush and Harper to discuss Arctic sovereignty, dangerous imports and Iran

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