G-7 Finance Ministers Meet in Iqaluit

Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King riding a dogsled in Iqaluit. © AP
Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King appeared down for dogsledding in Iqaluit. © AP

The finance ministers of the G-7 have convened in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where temperatures are slightly below 0° F. That makes it the perfect place for the “fireside chats” Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hopes to hold as part of a back to basics approach to discussing global finance. Issues like the European Union debt and risks to the global economy will be on the agenda, but since this is an international summit, we can probably assume that one question on the delegates’ minds will be, “What’s on the menu?” And as the Wall Street Journal reports, they probably won’t be eating seal. Though it will be served at a community feast, several ministers will escape the frozen north before they can partake in this controversial delicacy. Instead, most delegates will dine on traditional Inuit cuisine like “Arctic char, a fish that is similar to salmon, and roast caribou medallions.”  Today at lunch, musk-ox minestrone soup and caribou meat pie will also be served, giving the finance ministers a real taste of Inuit culture.

Later, Flaherty hopes to take the ministers dogsledding out on the Nunavut snows. Regarding meeting in Nunavut in the middle of February, he observed, “It’s counterintuitive to go there in the winter time, but it’s actually the most beautiful time of the year to go there because it is so spectacular, and I’m looking forward to taking them out dogsledding.”  This activity will also give them real exposure to the Canadian Arctic. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the first Inuit member of a cabinet in Canada, said in an interview with the AP that “With the interest from my prime minister to develop the north and the interest around sovereignty, it’s an ideal location to have a G-7, to show the international community that Canada’s Arctic is a part of Canada.”

With the international press corps descending on this town of 6,000 people, Nunavut is also hoping to increase economic interest in the province. In the past couple of years, it has consistently been one of Canada’s fastest growing regions thanks to its wealth of minerals like gold, copper, and zinc. It may potentially even have up to C$3 trillion of oil and gas, although these deposits haven’t yet been developed. GDP growth rates based on expenditures and mining topped 9.0% in 2007 and 5.5% in 2008. However, with the economic recession, these numbers are expected to fall flat. The mining industry spent over C$900 billion in capital expenditures in 2008, but was forecast to only spend $340 million in 2009 – a 62% drop, as the Government of Nunavut wrote in the Fiscal and Economic Outlook Report published in 2009.

Thus, the G-7 summit in Nunavut falls into the larger picture of Canada’s attempt to demonstrate its sovereignty in the High North in a very visible manner. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government seems to be following the age-old philosophy of, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

News links

“Flaherty’s G-7 gamble in the land of seal,” The Globe and Mail

“G-7 heads to Canadian Arctic for environment discussion,” USA Today

“Canada’s Arctic showcases resources at G-7 finance meeting,” Bloomberg

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