National News

Harper embarking on annual northern tour

By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press

WHITEHORSE - Stephen Harper will tour a local college and make an announcement about northern research in Whitehorse on Thursday as he begins his annual trek to the North, his ninth time doing so since becoming prime minister.

The Prime Minister's Office says this year's trip is meant to showcase the science, technology and research that are underway in the North.

Before he began his trip, Harper made a pit stop in British Columbia, first to meet business leaders in the Fraser Valley community of Chilliwack and later to speak at a $35-a-head, campaign-style summer barbecue for the Conservative riding association in Langley.

There, Harper reiterated his government's infrastructure investments in B.C., like the spending a new rapid-transit line. He also vowed to prevent bureaucrats from reintroducing the long-gun registry through the back door and promised to cut taxes.

He told supporters that immigrants are attracted to B.C. because of some common values: individual responsibility and hard work that's rewarded with opportunity and low taxes, tough penalties for criminals and safe streets for families and a strong and free Canada.

"These are Conservative values, they are Canadian values and in the next election we are going to use them to paint this province Tory blue," he said.

After his Thursday visit to Yukon College, where he'll tour the Cold Climate Innovation Centre, Harper will make an appearance at another Conservative party event. The Whitehorse Daily Star reports the Yukon Conservative Association has sent out around 3,000 invitations to its members and others.

The Conservative party website says the Yukon event will be held Thursday evening at an undisclosed location. Buses will shuttle people from an old Shell gas station on the Alaska highway to the site.

Then he's off to Fort Smith, N.W.T., to make announcements about developing agriculture in the North before heading to Nunavut, where he'll visit Cambridge Bay, Pond Inlet, Iqaluit and York Sound. He'll also take part in the military's Operation Nanook exercise aboard HMCS Radisson.

"During the prime minister's ninth annual northern tour, the prime minister will build on our record in the North, showcasing the science, technology and research that is transforming the North, improving living standards and creating jobs as he travels to Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut," Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald wrote in an email.

Harper's trip comes as the federal government is being sued over funding for a land-use plan that would guide resource development in Nunavut.

The Nunavut Planning Commission has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court, accusing Ottawa of trying to interfere in the plan's development and to block its final steps.

The Nunavut Planning Commission was created out of the 1993 Nunavut Land Claim Agreement. The commission was charged with designing legally binding plans that would lay out which lands would be protected, which would be open for development and how they would be managed to encourage local control and economic progress.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office says the government has provided $3 million a year to the commission for the last 18 years.

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