Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last month that $188 million is to be spent on the construction and operation of a new Arctic research station (Meaghan Fitzpatrick, “Harper commits $188M for new Arctic research centre,” CBC News, 23 August 2012).
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is scheduled to be fully operational by 2017. The centre has a price tag of $142.4 over six years for construction, equipment, and start-up costs and $46.2 million over six years for the science and technology research program. An additional $26.5 million per year will be required after 2018 to run the station.
“The North is a fundamental part of Canada’s heritage, future and identity, and we must continue to assert our sovereignty over Canada’s Arctic,” Harper said in a news release. “This new station will undertake science and technology…research that will support the responsible development of Canada’s North, inform environmental stewardship and enhance the quality of life of Northerners and all Canadians.”
According to the prime minister, CHARS will help Canada gain ground as a global leader in Arctic science and technology.
Unmentioned by the prime minister was that fact that an existing research station, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), will soon have to close its doors due to lack of funding.
PEARL has been tracking ozone depletion, air quality, and climate change in the High Arctic since 2005. The station detected the largest hole in the ozone over the Arctic ever discovered last year.
The foundations upon which PEARL relied for funding are no longer receiving money from the Harper government, and applications for other government grants have been turned down.
According to those involved with PEARL, CHARS will not be an adequate replacement. PEARL was much further north in the High Arctic and closing its doors will mean the loss of important data from an area so uniquely close to the North Pole.
Photo credit: DND