Far North strategy snarled by red tape, Defence study says
Conservatives' strategy lacks political 'champion' to win consensus across departments
An exhaustive study of how the Canadian military fits into the Conservative government's Far North strategy warns the overall effort has often lacked political will and direction.
The blunt 72-page assessment, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, paints a picture of good intentions that have ground to a halt amid bureaucratic red tape and turf wars in Ottawa.
The study comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the Arctic this week, touting his government's achievements and meeting with community leaders, as well as aboriginal reserve soldiers.
The review, written by the Defence Science Advisory Board at National Defence, looks at everything from military and public safety issues to the economy of the North and the implications of dealing with local culture.
Intergovernmental committees have been formed, but the plan lacks a "champion" at the political level to provide direction and build consensus among departments, said the review, dated April 2012.
There are many thorny "resource and jurisdictional issues" to be managed, it noted.
"Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has responsibility for the Northern Strategy, but this is not being developed and overseen at a sufficiently high level," wrote the defence scientists, whose wide-ranging research was not restricted to the military aspects of the government's plan.
'Frustration is the predominant emotion'
"A high-level co-ordinating panel at the (deputy minister) level has been established. However, at the lower levels, frustration is the predominant emotion as there is no clear flow of governance and responsibility down to the working level."
The federal government can often be described by its "stove pipes" that limit the flow of information and produce a reluctance to co-operate, said the report.
"This prevailing culture is bolstered by a set of rules, which can stymie well-meaning attempts to progress initiatives through logical co-operation," defence researchers wrote.
"As a result efforts to make operational aspects of the government's northern strategy are not seen by local residents as progressing as rapidly as possible."
The Conservatives, on the other hand, insist they have made "tremendous strides" forward and that economic development in the region is progressing like never before.
The government says investments in science have led to resource discoveries and the commercialization of deposits.
The most recent federal budget poured in $200 million for the construction of an all-season gravel road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.
The Conservatives also underscore the $241 million spent over the last five years to connect First Nations youth with skills training and jobs.