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Canada sets priorities for Arctic Council chairmanship

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Canada's 2 year chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council set to begin this May will be characterized by a focus on sustainable economic development, shipping pollution regulation and an emphasis on circumpolar communities, all in the service of the well-being and prosperity of the existing northern population, said Leona Aglukkaq.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Aglukkaq, who is also minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the minister of health, in August to be Canada's lead representative to the council.

Appointment of a minister to the Arctic Council "is a first for Canada," Aglukkaq said while speaking Jan. 20 at the 2013 Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway (archived webcasts are online).

Aglukkaq's appointment "reflects the importance Canada attaches to the north, to the Arctic Council," she added. Harper's Conservative Party has been aggressive in its assertion of a prominent Arctic role, with Harper embarking on annual northern tours and promulgating a Northern Strategy in 2007. The country also has under construction a C$720 million heavy icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, that's expected to enter service in 2017.

"The potential for wealth and job creation in the Arctic is great," Aglukkaq said in Norway. "Canada is determined to see northern communities benefit from the economic boom that is unfolding," she added; Aglukkaq, an Inuk, represents the territory of Nunavut in Parliament.

During the conference, Espen Barthe Eide, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, also said that by the time of a May meeting of the council where the rotating chairmanship will transfer to Canada from Sweden, council states should have agreement on the expansion of new observer states.

"My argument for opening up for more observers is that we're happy that people want to join us, because when they join our club, they're not starting another club," Eide said. "That's good, because it gives us some influence on what the topics are when it comes to managing the Arctic," he added.

For more:
- go to the 2013 Arctic Frontiers conference webpage

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