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NNSL Photo/graphic

NDP leader Jack Layton, right, talks with Yellowknife musher Grant Beck, left, during a campaign stop in the capital Wednesday to visit with Western Arctic NDP candidate Dennis Bevington, middle. - Andrew Raven/NNSL photo

Canada must take firm stand in Arctic - NDP leader

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 23/05) - NDP leader Jack Layton made a brief campaign detour to Yellowknife, Wednesday, to boost the party's candidate and attack the Liberal government's Arctic policy.

Layton called for a beefed-up navy presence in the Arctic, asserting that "submarines are quite regularly in our waters and the Canadian government doesn't even know about it."

"Or if they do find out about it, it's by accident and usually after it's happened," he said in an interview with Yellowknifer.

The NDP plan would have vessels patrol the Northwest Passage, which some experts believe could open to shipping if the Arctic sea ice continues to recede.

That could lead to any number of environmental disasters, Layton said.

"Before you know it, you could have a crisis on your hands."

Pressed for details, Layton said it would involve vessels but probably not more military bases. The specifics of the proposal would be released later in the campaign, he said.

Layton is the first party leader to visit the Western Arctic, which produced one of the closet races in the last federal election.

He praised NDP candidate Dennis Bevington, who lost to Liberal incumbent Ethel Blondin-Andrew by 53 votes in 2004.

Layton also made an appearance in Old Town accompanied by a throng of national media and toured Great Slave Lake on a dogsled. In the evening, he spoke to more than 65 party supporters at an outdoor rally and reception at the Yellowknife Ski Club.