Climate change is drumming up public support for the North, a new poll suggests.
Three quarters of Canadians agree “Canadian politicians should focus more attention on Canada’s North and less on our southern neighbour, the USA,” according to an Ipsos Reid done on behalf of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Dominion Institute.
The poll is the first to gauge Outside attitudes toward the North, said Marc Chalifoux, director of the Toronto-based Dominion Institute, which tries to increase awareness about Canadian history and identity.
“What surprises me the most about this statistic is that we’re less than 100 days into the presidency of Barack Obama,” said Chalifoux. “We can remember how much attention was given to the US and the US president when he was here last month and we’re finding in the survey that Canadians think politicians should focus less on the US.”
The poll, done from March 18 to 23 in an online survey of 1,011 Canadian adults, also found eight in 10 Canadians agree “climate change will soon destroy the life and habitat of Canada’s North,” and more believe “we should look to the Arctic as an early warning signal for the effects of climate change in Canada.”
While history shows a track record of rising and falling interest in the North, Canadians might be concerned about its northern regions for the long-term this time around, said Chalifoux.
“There’s a whole host of issues that aren’t just situational, or timely or a one-off,” he said. “I think issues like climate change, issues like Arctic sovereignty, are really putting the North at the centre of some of the most important policy debates that Canada has to deal with.”
“I think there will be a sustained and intensifying interest in the North among Canadians,” said Chalifoux.
“Canadians are saying (the North) is the first place we should be looking for the effects of climate change.”
While Canadians may be polarized on climate-change solutions, such as cap-and-trade proposals and a carbon tax, the country is nearly unanimous in its concern for Arctic well-being.
“There’s been a lot of discussions and media reports on the effects of climate change in the extremities of the planet, and Canada has so much of its landmass in the Arctic and the North,” said Chalifoux.
“We see images of polar ice caps melting, and these images have come to define the effects of climate change for Canadians.”
While only one in 10 Canadians have visited the territories, nine in 10 Canadians agree the “most important guarantee of sovereignty in the Arctic is the presence of people living there.”
Only 54 per cent felt somewhat or strongly that sovereignty is defined by the presence of military forces.
Older Canadians were more likely to believe the latter.
The survey was done to mark the first LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture ever to be held in the North.
The lecture, to be held on May 29 in Iqaluit, Nunavut, will be given by Siila Watt-Cloutier, a Nobel Prize nominee and a former president and international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.
Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson and her husband John Ralston Saul began the lectures in 2000 to bring attention to issues facing the national public good, says its website.
The lecture is organized by both the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Dominion Institute.
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