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Liberal ministers invade Canada's North 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 4:00 p.m. August 5, 2005]

OTTAWA  — They may have a population of about 70,000 residents, but Canada's three northern territories are getting a lot of attention from the Liberals this summer.   

A cavalcade of big name Liberal cabinet ministers have began to make the trek up North in August. 

Earlier this week, Environment Minister Stephane Dion visited the North West Territory community of Deline to announce the expansion of Tuktuk Nogait National Park. 

He was also joined in Yellowknife by Indian Affairs Minister Andy Scott and Northern Development Minister Ethel Blondin Andrew to announce a $138.7 million in spending to clean up priority contaminated sites across the country. 

The ministers made the announcement at the site of the former Giant Mine, a gold mine that came into the control of the federal government in 1999 when its owner went into receivership. 

If three ministers wasn't enough, Transport Minister Jean Lapierre was in Iqaluit on Wednesday to announce $69.5 million in infrastructure funding for Nunavut's municipalities. And Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Lucienne Robillard spent Wednesday in Whitehorse meeting with Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie and aboriginal and francophone leaders. 

Treasury Board Board President Reg Alcock is also expected to visit Deline this month and according to CBC North, Public Works Minister Scott Brison and Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach were set to visit the territories but postponed because of scheduling conflicts. 

Why all the attention up North? 

"I didn't come to Yukon because there was a specific issue or specific problem in the relationship between Canada and Yukon, but only to maintain that dialogue," Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Lucienne Robillard told the Whitehorse Star.

Or there could be other reasons than maintaining dialogue. 

The Liberals currently hold all three seats in the three territories, but that could change with an election expected early next year. 

And with the Liberals needing virtually every winnable seat outside of Quebec for any hope of forming a majority government in the next election, these three seats are important holds for the government.

Blondin-Andrew's Western Arctic riding is one of the most at risk Liberal ridings in the country. She won the last election by 53 votes and was unable to attend her swearing in ceremony for cabinet because of the judicial recount taking place in the riding. 

Western Arctic Party Votes
Ethel Blondin-Andrew Lib 5,317
Dennis Bevington NDP 5,264
Sean Mandeville CPC 2,314
Chris O'Brien Green    583

Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell won her riding with 51 per cent of the vote, it has been locally reported that she has stoked some anger in her riding with her decision to support the government's same-sex marriage bill. 

A local church in one small Nunavut community sent a petition with 260 signatures to voice pleasure with Karetak-Lindell's position in April. 

Nunavut Party Votes
Nancy Karetak-Lindell Lib 3,818
Manitok Thompson Ind 1,172
Bill Ridell NDP 1,129
Duncan Cunningham CPC 1,075

And Liberal MP Larry Bagnell can expect a tough campaign in his Yukon riding, which he won by 2,500 votes in the last election. The riding had been held by the NDP since 1987 until Bagnell narrowly won it in 2000. 

Yukon Party Votes
Larry Bagnell Lib 5,724
Pam Boyde NDP 3,216
James Hartle CPC 2,618
Phillippe LeBlond Green     571

Not only are the Liberals spending the summer trying to protect their ridings in the North, they are protecting territory. 

Defence Minister Bill Graham flew by helicopter last month to the disputed Hans Island in the arctic. 

The small, 1.3 square-kilometer, barren island is the subject of an ownership dispute between Canada and Denmark. 

Graham used a Hans-on approach and erected a Canadian flag on the small island, prompting a Danish diplomat to call Graham's stop an "invasion" and triggering the Danish navy to send a vessel to the island and put up their own flag.     

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