Thursday, April 13, 2006

harper's views change from dec; but we can send our military to the middle east and abandon our own land or is it to relocate them to afghanistan ...

Military to trim Alert staff
Apr 12 2006, CBC News

The Canadian military is cutting the number of soldiers at the Alert station on Ellesmere Island, a move some fear will reflect poorly on Canada's claims of sovereignty over the Arctic.

Canadian Forces Station Alert, a radio monitoring outpost and the most northerly permanent settlement in the world, is reorganizing as a result of the high cost of fuel oil.

Military officials say some of the support staff at the base– cooks, janitors, drivers, and mechanics – will be replaced by civilian contractors. There are about 70 armed forces personnel at the base, down from a peak of about 200 in the 1980s.

While refusing to say how big a cut there will be, officials insist it won't affect the force's mission in the North. Maj. Gioseph Anello says the department of national defence had to cut costs, and heating all the station's buildings was just too expensive.

He denies the move signals a weaker commitment to northern sovereignty.

"If that message is being sent out then it's not us sending it," Anello said. "We are recapitalizing. We are rationalizing to provide better sustainability up in Alert."

"It takes less fuel so if we are using less than we can sustain our operation for a longer period of time. So our project doesn't affect the operation."

Anello points out the military is also investing money in the station, and modernizing some parts of the aging facility.

But NDP defence critic Dawn Black says the cuts are troubling.

She remembers Prime Minister Stephen Harper promising he would enhance Arctic sovereignty, and says the cost of fuel shouldn't get in the way of that.

FROM DEC. 22, 2005: Tories plan to bolster Arctic defence

"Of course, everything that goes to the northern reaches of our country is expensive and that should not impact on our sovereignty," Black said.

The military is not saying exactly how many soldiers will be left at Alert, but it insists it will still be able to maintain radio surveillance of the Arctic.