An enhanced Canadian Ranger program, an Arctic naval port, and the return of reserve forces to Canada's territories are among the ideas pitched by Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Erin O'Toole.
O'Toole's already been endorsed by Yukon Party MLAs Scott Kent, Wade Istchenko and Stacey Hassard. Former Yukon MP Ryan Leef, meanwhile, has endorsed Bernier.
O'Toole, a former officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force, says the Canadian Forces are being shortchanged by the federal Liberals and says the Forces need more support, equipment and infrastructure to patrol the Arctic.
He also said he wants to continue construction of a naval port in the Arctic.
"We need to be able to operate in our North. We need naval facilities, we need ground forces," he said.
"I want to work with the Rangers even more, and making sure we have the ability to have that air presence."
'We need a better presence'
O'Toole believes Canada's military needs a permanent presence in Canada's North, beyond annual operations like Operation Nanook.
"At a time where the time where the North is opening up — there's commercial traffic, even tourist traffic in the Northwest Passage — we need a better presence of Canada in the largest part of our land mass," he said.
O'Toole, who served as veteran affairs minister in Stephen Harper's government, says the region's military needs have "not been properly addressed" by Ottawa over the last 50 years.
He's especially bothered by the latest federal budget, which deferred billions of dollars of spending on defence equipment to the 2030s.
"Deferring is not buying the equipment needed," he said.
He also disagrees with the Liberals' stated preference for the Super Hornet planes which he says are not properly equipped for Arctic patrols.
Enhanced role for Rangers, drones
Asked about the Canadian Rangers, O'Toole says he would like to see more training and access to equipment. He says recent acquisitions of new equipment such as updated rifles are a good start.
Currently, many Canadian Rangers lease their own equipment such as boats and ATVs to be used by the Canadian Forces.
O`Toole says Rangers should also be doing more, such as using drones to patrol.
"Not just for our sovereignty, but you can do wildlife [and] environmental patrols using drones — flown, maintained, and operated by Northerners," he said.
"It's a way we can exert sovereignty and engage young people, as an offshoot of the Canadian Rangers program."