There was a big, mostly virtual, conference on security and defence issues in Ottawa last week. As is so often the case the keynote speaker was “Captain Obvious.” In fact, though, I was a bit surprised that the Trudeau regime allowed Deputy Minister of National Defence Jody Thomas, the person in DND who is responsible for strategic advice and policy matters, to state the obvious. As Steven Chase and Robert Fife report, in the Globe and Mail, that’s exactly what she did, saying that “China is a growing threat to Canadian interests in the Arctic because of its need for natural resources.”
They go on to say that “In frank comments to the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence, deputy minister Jody Thomas said on Wednesday that Beijing is turning its attention to the Northwest Passage as melting ice opens up Arctic sea lanes to shipping and resource exploitation, including fish, petroleum and critical minerals …[and she explained that] … China’s designs on minerals in Canada’s North in part prompted the development of a joint U.S.-Canada strategy to reshape global critical mineral supply chains and reduce reliance on China. Beijing has moved aggressively in recent years to tighten its control of rare-earth minerals, which are crucial for manufacturing high-tech and military products … [and Ms Thomas said that] …“We should not underestimate at all that threat of resource exploitation in the Arctic by China in particular … [because] … China has a voracious appetite and will stop at nothing to feed itself, and the Arctic is one of the last domains and regions left and we have to understand it and exploit it and more quickly than they can exploit it.”“
‘Oh, no,‘ I can already hear most people saying, ‘he’s going on about Canada not doing enough to defend itself, isn’t he? Doesn’t he know that we Canadians don’t want to spend any more on defence? We, most of us, anyway, likely 2⁄3 to 3⁄4 of us, don’t care and just want the Americans to defend us.‘ That’s also Captain Obvious speaking.
China’s dominant position in some (many?) strategically critical resource areas is well known. China is, also, a quite large but resource poor country. It needs, quite desperately, some of the most critical resources, like water, oil and uranium. It ought to be clear that Canada has a vested interest in being able to profit from its own resources … including by selling them, on the open market, to anyone with cash to pay, even including China. But China would, understandably, rather control our resources itself.
Canada has rare earth elements but the market is complex and China controls the price. In the 1950s we, Canadians decided, that we needed to move our own information and petroleum from coast-to-(almost)-coast and so we built national projects, which were then turned over to the private sector to operate and exploit …
… (as was done with ALL of the world’s best ‘public’ transit systems, by the way ~ not one really good public transit system is publicly owned and operated but all were built with public funds). But that former Canadian urge to ‘nation build‘ for ourselves seems to have faded into oblivion.
The government did the right thing, albeit reluctantly, it appears, in blocking a Chinese plan to acquire one Canadian strategic mineral mine ~ and gold still is one, by the way ~ but it still seems more bent on appeasing than on containing. Canada seems, to me, to be badly offside with our most important allies and trading partners. It is refreshing to hear a senior Canadian official state the obvious: “China is a growing threat to Canadian interests.” Now, we just need a responsible government that will act on that good analysis.