The Canadian government's promised world-class Arctic research station should be located in the Northwest Passage and connected to a network of other research bases across the North, says the Canadian Polar Commission.
In releasing the results Wednesday of a two-year study on research logistics and infrastructure in Canada's North, the commission says current interest in polar research and Arctic sovereignty would make the Northwest Passage a good location for the High Arctic research station.
Ottawa promised the new station in its most recent throne speech.
"It would be a very smart thing to have a station that could be involved in international research … and involving communities along the Northwest Passage and so on," commission chairman Tom Hutchinson told CBC News Wednesday.
The commission, a federal government agency that specializes in polar research, also concluded that Ottawa needs a 25-year plan and $25 million to set up a pan-northern network of about 12 major research stations from Labrador to the Yukon.
Many existing field research facilities in the region are old and falling apart, the commission found.
Despite a surge in polar research over the last decade, northern field stations have suffered from three decades of neglect and cannot keep up with the current demand, Hutchinson said.
John Smol, a longtime Arctic researcher with Queen's University, agreed.
"Canada is a polar nation, and we really haven't been holding up our own in infrastructure and the facilities to do this," he said Thursday.
The Canadian Polar Commission's study also recommends setting up a comprehensive northern surveillance and monitoring network, as well as replacing the Canadian coast guard research ships Amundsen, Louis St. Laurent and Nahidik with vessels capable of accommodating scientific research once the existing ships are decommissioned.
Hutchinson said a northern research network could complement work being done at the federal High Arctic research station.
Basing the new High Arctic station by the Northwest Passage would also make logistical sense, as ships can enter the area, added Bill Doidge, director of the Nunavik Research Centre in Kuujjuaq, Que.
"But I think there's a lot of things to weigh up in terms of what the scientific priorities may be in a certain area," Doidge said.
"Actually, if you get a bunch of scientists together, they won't agree totally on where the location should be."
It isn't just scientists who may disagree on where a High Arctic research station would go — Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have all been hoping to have a major research centre based on their territory.