So what was that all about? - Macleans.ca

So what was that all about?

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The Nunatsiaq News calls it “the most expensive photo op you’ll ever see.”

Torch blogger Mark Collins laments the “jingoistic nonsense” of it all.

And then there is what our own Andrew Coyne wrote. A year ago.

In fact, Canada’s Arctic sovereignty is getting along just fine, thank you. For all the emphasis the Conservatives have placed on it — “use it or lose it,” in Harper’s famous formulation — and for all the reams of hyperventilating, the-Russians-are-coming reportage it has received in the media, no one is actually threatening to invade Canada’s frozen North. Neither is there much dispute over Canada’s territorial waters — the ribbon of sea along our coast, 200 nautical miles wide, that international law acknowledges as ours. Even the much bolder claim we have lately advanced to the waters beyond the 200-mile limit, reaching as far as the North Pole, is for the most part uncontested…

It can’t hurt our case, and may help, if we bolster our physical presence in the North. Certainly we should hope that the Arctic spoils are divided by something resembling a legal process, rather than by military force or international free-for-all. And there are good reasons — environmental, security — why it would be in everybody’s interest for Canada to continue to police the passage. But on its merits, the question of Arctic sovereignty would not seem to warrant anything like the attention it has received from this government.

It does, however, serve an important political objective — namely, as part of the Conservatives’ efforts to rebrand themselves as the Canada Party, or perhaps to redefine Canada itself: to devise an alternative language and symbology of patriotism to the one so successfully exploited over the years by the Liberals.