A stronger federal government makes a post-pandemic Canada stronger

Two developments have strengthened Canada by making the federal government stronger.

The first was a Supreme Court ruling that determined the fed’s carbon pricing to be constitutional.

image: OECD Development Matters

Opponents of carbon pricing like to call it a “carbon tax” but, of course, it isn’t. A tax is a levy for public services rendered. As in B.C.’s case, carbon pricing simply means that burning fossil fuels costs more and that it’s is revenue neutral: total revenues collected remain the same. To emphasize this point, P.M. Trudeau said that if provinces couldn’t come up with a carbon pricing scheme, he would collect it anyway and return it directly back into the pockets of citizens of the affected province.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling, Canada is stronger much to the chagrin of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario who claimed that the feds were encroaching on their provincial rights.

A friend of mine in Alberta is very upset. He told me that Alberta should separate because the feds could now “do whatever they liked” to the provinces.

Well, not quite. The Supreme Court ruling was exceptional. The ruling was based on Canada’s obligations under 2015 Paris Agreement and the real threat of climate change.

 “Climate change is real,” Chief Justice Wagner wrote in his reason for the majority decision. “It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future. The only way to address the threat of climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The feds can’t do whatever they like. Under our federation, provinces have considerable powers that cannot be arbitrarily overturned.

Canada is also stronger because of the leadership role of the federal government in saving the economy from certain collapse because of the pandemic.

In 2008, the feds bailed out the financial sector. In 2020, they bailed out the entire economy. Had leaders followed supply-side economists, the pandemic would have unravelled the economy worse than the 1930s Great Depression.

Canada’s federal government provided extraordinary leadership during the pandemic.

David Macdonald, Senior Economist for the Canadian Centre for Alternatives says:

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has required government leadership on a scale that’s unprecedented in modern Canadian times. Including liquidity and unallocated funds, federal and provincial governments have announced almost $600 billion in spending commitments across 849 measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Of that $600 billion, only eight per cent is coming from the provinces on average. However, some provinces demonstrated greater leadership than others.

In his report for the CCPA, Macdonald found that B.C.’s contribution was the highest of the provinces -at 16 per cent of the total provincial allocation. The B.C. government stands out as providing the highest per capita individual supports, eight times higher than the next highest province, Quebec.

Albertans, on the other hand, are receiving the highest level of per capita COVID19 spending, worth $11,200 a person—93% of which is on the federal tab. Alberta receives $1,200 more support, per person, from the federal government than any other province.

It seems to me that Alberta is doing very well as a member of the Canadian federation and Alberta Premier Kenney would do well to shut up and cooperate on mitigating climate change.

QAnon Canada: quieter, subtler

QAnon in the U.S. has taken on the militaristic quality of a religious crusade with Q as the prophet and Trump as the Messiah.  In Canada, the response has been more muted.

image: National Post

QAnon has been wildly successful and expanded beyond what the apocalyptic prophet Q intended. The identity of Q is speculative s/he could be the online avatar of the American pig farmer Jim Watkins or someone connected to Watkins. Supporters are called “Anons.”

The success of QAnon has been its skill in connecting unrelated ideologies into a tangled narrative.

QAnon has brought together incoherent groups into a big-tent scheme, complete with flowcharts of the “theoretical functional relationships” of the supposed cabal of pedophiles that is operating an international child sex-trafficking ring, and a Sephirot Map of the Pharaonic Death Cult. British writer Hari Kunzru explains the appeal of QAnon:  

“Yet despite its incoherence, there is, in a strictly aesthetic sense, something sublime about it, or at least about the experience it is trying to represent, the experience of scale and complexity, of a world that is beyond the capacity of the human mind to apprehend (Harper’s magazine, January, 2021)”.

At the gut level of QAnon is a primal fear that children are being murdered and trafficked for sex.

This gnawing primal fear is not new. The groundwork for QAnon was laid in a 1980s book titled Michelle Remembers. The book sparked the “Satanic Panic” —the belief that Satanists were hidden among us, abusing and murdering children. One sensation case took place In Martensville, Saskatchewan, where nine people were charged for being members of a satanic pedophile ring. One man was eventually convicted of sex-related charges, but no such satanic ring was found.

QAnon in Canada still has the sex trafficking of children angle at heart but is subtler. The organizer of the QAnon Canada Facebook group is a mild mannered auto-glass repairman in Elliot Lake, Ontario. Blain McElrea told Walrus magazine that his passion is “an information project” that builds bridges between truth seekers. His inclusive vision of QAnon’s prompted him to start subgroups for religious devotees, New Agers, and UFO-believers.

“Basically, all of the bad things that the New York Times says about us—I am making sure that I’m not plugging into any one of those negative labels that they’re talking about,” said McElrea.

QAnon Canada is quieter, softer. Marc-André Argentino at Concordia University has discovered a new phenomenon he calls “Pastel QAnon.” It evolved from lifestyle influencers, mommy pages, fitness pages, diet pages and alternative healing. The pastel-coloured websites express pro-Trump, racist and anti-Semitic views.

Canada’s Anons are community leaders. In the Maritimes, a yoga teacher interrupted her Instagram feed to post a four-minute lecture to her more than 1,400 followers about a coming mass spiritual awakening—after COVID-19 is revealed as a distraction—and how the satanic cabal is about to be overcome by Trump, who belongs to the “team of light.”

McElrea had 4,000 members in his QAnon Canada group before Facebook shut it down. When I tried to find it, the following message popped up on Facebook:

“This search may be associated with a dangerous conspiracy movement called QAnon. Experts say QAnon and the violence it inspires are a significant risk to public safety.”

Canada’s housing agency tries to slow the exodus from big cities

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is attempting to curb the outflow from big cities.

iamge: HuffPost Canada

Toronto saw a net loss of 50,375 last year as people moved to surrounding small cities; places such as Oshawa where the population increased by 2.1 per cent according.

Municipalities around Montreal also experienced growth with Farnham seeing an increase of 5.2 per cent.

People are migrating out of Vancouver to small Interior cities, as well. In Kamloops, home sales totalled 3,044 units last year, up 6.4 per cent from 2019. Sales were brisk with homes on the market just of 2.6 months on average, compared to 5.8 months the previous year.

The pandemic has resulted in millions of new workers from home. As of December, 2020, 4.8 million Canadians worked from home. For 2.8 million of those, working from home was a new experience.

The influx of highly successful, mid-career professionals and knowledge workers has an effect on the character and culture of a small city. On the plus side, professionals have more to spend and support the arts making small cities more vibrant. Conversely, they drive the price of houses up making them less affordable for low-income wage earners.

CMHC, a Crown Corporation responsible for affordable housing, is promoting big cities. In a two-page ad in The Walrus magazine, they point to the advantages of living in denser communities:

“CMHC is also increasingly recognizing that intensification, or creating denser communities, can play a positive role in addressing not only housing affordability but other challenges — such as access to services, health status, and climate change — that factor into where people choose to live.”

Part of the appeal in moving out of a big city, it seems, is the seemingly lower rates of COVID-19 infection. But most infections in big cities have been among those working in high contact jobs, not home-work environments. And the Kamloops region is now experiencing a spike in infections.

It might seem like commute times are less in smaller cities but Vancouver isn’t much different than Kamloops. In Vancouver, the average commute time by car was 26 minutes last year. While I don’t have averages for Kamloops, most drivers had a commute time of 15 to 29 minutes according to Statistics Canada. And fifteen per cent of Kamloops drivers had commute times longer than 30 minutes.

Big cities attract medical talent to specialized clinics, making health services superior in dense urban centres. Michel Tremblay, VP at CMHC says:  “You simply can’t offer the same level of service in smaller centres; it is just not economically justifiable,”

Everyday needs such as groceries, libraries, and community support services are not only more numerous and varied in a big city, but also easier to get to by walking, cycling, or public transit. People prefer to go on foot, which is the basis for an inherently healthy, active approach to living, CMHC argues.

Personally, I’m not convinced. Despite the disadvantages of living in small cities, Kamloops was a big draw for me when I moved to here from Calgary. I like the slower pace of life and living close to nature.

But I wonder what motivates CMHC, a housing agency, to promote big cities? Is it because they are worried about a collapse in big city housing markets where they insure the mortgages?

A reliable postal system is an indication of a country’s democracy

I’ve found that you can determine how well a country functions by how well its postal system works. When I lived in Australia, I could count on letters getting back to Canada. When in Mexico, not so much.

image: Maple Ridge News

During the pandemic, especially, a functioning postal service is proving to be vital.

Even before the pandemic, the mail served as a great leveller in communication. Anyone, regardless of whether they have an internet connection or not, can communicate with anyone else. In a country as vast as Canada, that’s especially essential. For the price of a stamp, I can mail a letter to Tuktoyaktuk or across town in Kamloops.

Too often, a postal system is measured in business terms: whether it makes money or not. The value of a postal system is that it’s a public service, like public transit. A reliable mail system is a hallmark of a democratic country.

And the internet seems like an obvious replacement to mail until you realize just how insecure it is. Yes, bank statements can be sent electronically but so can fraudulent messages that dupe people out of money. The internet can’t be trusted for something as fundamental to a democracy as voting.

The postal system in the United States is under attack.  

There are mounting concerns in the U.S. over being able to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election. President Donald Trump has continued his attacks on the United States Postal Service, stripping it of funding and blocking a nationwide mail-in voting in the next presidential election.

Mailboxes were ripped up in Democratic states just one day after Trump threatened to sabotage the USPS. Residents of Oregon and Montana witnessed mail boxes being removed. The same was happening in New York City.

USPS defended the move, saying that they were removing boxes that didn’t receive much mail and so they cut the cost of picking up mail in remote locations. Their defence is lame considering that the new Postmaster General, a major Trump ally, overhauled the Postal Service’s corporate structure and reassigned 33 top executives.

The Trump administration is not interested in a reliable postal service as a vehicle of democracy. He clearly cares not a whit about the needs of citizens with accessibility issues, disabled veterans, the elderly and those in rural communities who rely on USPS.

Meanwhile in Canada, elections are proceeding without any doubts about Canada Post being able to deliver mail-in ballots. I have requested a mail-in ballot for the upcoming election in B.C., -as have one-third of eligible voters concerned about the pandemic.

The internet doesn’t cut it when it comes to voting. Melanie Hull of Elections BC said:

 “While online voting would help ensure physical distancing, unfortunately there are still significant security concerns with this method of voting. It’s not something we recommend for a provincial election in B.C.”

The mail-in ballots in the upcoming elections in Canada and the U.S. will test our democratic institutions.  

After the pandemic is over, I’m curious to know whether a letter I send from the U.S. will make it home.

The rocky relationship between CERB, EI and getting back to work

Back to school concerns compounded by back to work woes

While parents worry about sending their kids back to school in September, millions will be without work and without government assistance. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) runs out in September. It provided   $500/week to pay the rent and buy groceries.

The future looks especially bleak for those previously employed in the service sector. They represent the largest sector -three out of every four jobs.  With isolation measures in place, many jobs in the food and tourist accommodation sectors are lost for a long time.

Without CERB, a cloud of debt hangs over the unemployed. Canadians owe $1.77 for every dollar available to spend as of June, 2020.

The holders of that debt face a problem as well. Banks were happy to see Canadians in debt as long as the credit cards, loans, and mortgages were paid off with profitable interest. But what do banks do when Canadians can no longer pay debt?

Canada’s Big Six banks face growing loan losses as government programs wind down, and loan-deferral and interest rate relief programs come to a halt. Banks have already set aside $11 billion for losses but that may not be enough.

CERB has kept the wolf from the door so far. Personal insolvencies are below average and credit payments have remained stable.

The government of Canada faces a big problem as well. You only have to look back at the Dirty Thirties to see what happens when there are no jobs and no government support. Men left their desperate families on dustbowl farms and wandered the countryside on trains trying to find any work and money to send back home to starving families.

As of Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau has prorogued Parliament to deal with the crisis, a move that sets up a confidence vote this fall that could trigger a 2020 election.

Here’s the problem that the Trudeau government faces.

As of last March all EI recipients were rolled into the CERB program and received $500 a month. The feds will discontinue the CERB program at the end of this month and move recipients back to EI or an “EI-like” transitional benefit. Just what will an EI-like program look like?

There are major holes in the move back to EI as it now stands, according to calculations done by David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

At the start of August there were 4.7 million people receiving the CERB. Because EI has no minimum, 811,000 of those would receive less on EI than they did on CERB; instead of $500 a week, they would receive only $312 on average.

And under current EI rules, 2.1 million of those receiving CERB will not be eligible; they will get nothing at all. In B.C., that’s 324,000 who were previously receiving $500/week who will now get nothing.

The clock is ticking as CERB runs out. I look forward to the Throne Speech on September 23 and the federal plan in which “no one will be left behind,” as Trudeau promised.

 

Should B.C. bubble-up with neighbours?

Canada’s four Atlantic Provinces have agreed to open their borders to each other on July 3, creating a regional pandemic bubble. What are the opportunities for B.C.?

image: Britannica

The Atlantic bubble means that travellers within the region will not be required to self-isolate after crossing the borders. Travellers will have show proof of residency with a driver’s licence or health card.

As we know from creating bubble families, picking who you want to bubble up with is tricky -a bit like asking someone to dance. Who is desirable? Are they available? Do they practice safe social intercourse?

For the Atlantic Provinces, it was easy. Not only are they attractive because they form a natural geographic area but also there are no active COVID-19 cases, with the exception of New Brunswick and that was caused by a doctor who was infected upon returning from Quebec. They form a natural regional bubble that’s desirable, available, and safe.

Countries can bubble up with neighbours as well. While not quite bubbles, the European Union has loosened border restrictions this week to 15 countries including Canada but not the U.S. Russia, or Brazil. The loosening includes countries that have controlled the spread of COVID-19.

But while some countries are desirable, they are not available. New Zealand makes an appealing partner because they have largely contained the virus. But they want nothing to do with bubbling after three new travel-related cases were reported.

Canada’s travel and tourism industries want to bring more countries to the dance floor. In an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau in the Globe and Mail, they say 14-day quarantines and travel restrictions are “no longer necessary” and are “out of step with other countries across the globe,”

Trudeau objects, saying that lifting travel restrictions now “would lead to a resurgence that might well force us to go back into lockdown.”

Epidemiologists agree with Trudeau. Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, general internist and clinical epidemiologist says: “Travel is the one segment of the economy that probably has the greatest potential to derail our ability to stay out of lockdown.”

The problem is not just being in a metal tube hurtling through the sky with dozens of other passengers, it’s the dangers that await you on landing. “When people travel, they don’t travel to stay indoors with their close travel companion at their arrival destination,” Dr. Lapointe-Shaw said. “Travel does have an outsized effect on the ability of outbreaks to grow quickly.”

When B.C. is stares across the dance floor at potential partners to bubble with, there are Alberta and Washington State.

B.C.’s relations with Alberta are a bit prickly. Last month, travelers with Alberta plates have received nasty notes and had tires slashed. One Alberta traveler had a note attached to his windshield reading: “F-ck off back to Alberta! Supposed to be not doing non-essential travel.” Soon after, he also noticed a large scratch on the side of his car.

The love with Alberta just isn’t there.

Washington State forms a natural geographic area with B.C. It’s part of Cascadia, a loose association of bioregions along the West Coast. While appealing, Washington is off limits as the U.S. spirals into an every-growing deadly pandemic.

It looks like B.C. will have to sit out this dance.

Emergence of Canada’s economy from a coma must be done carefully

Canada’s economy has been placed in an induced coma since it was infected with the novel coronavirus. Arousal from the coma must be done carefully to avoid a devastating setback.

The Dirty Thirties. Image: Canadian Encyclopedia

Keeping the comatose economy on life support has been expensive. We’ve blown the wad on the first wave of the pandemic to the tune of one-quarter trillion dollars. We can’t afford an expensive relapse.

Canada’s debt, manageable now, could lead to consequences worse than that of the Dirty Thirties if the recovery is not done right.

Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay puts it this way: “We can’t screw this up because we don’t have enough fiscal firepower. We can’t fail the re-entry. We don’t have enough money for a massive step back.”

Bringing the economy back to life is as much an art as a science; a little wakefulness here, a few stimulations there. Hurry up and wait to see what happens. The patient’s urge to run must be tempered with the pitfalls that lie ahead.

Deep thinkers are at work. We need to listen to the advice of health professionals, who understand the mortal dangers of this virus, and to economists who appreciate the long-term social and economic costs of tanking the economy.

Unemployment already exceeds anything in the past century, except the Great Depression. The sheer number of people affected is staggering. A projected 8.5 million Canadians will receive $2,000 monthly from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). That’s nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s work force.

Unlike Employment Insurance, the CERB does not require recipients to look for work. It doesn’t require them to accept a job offer. Recipients can only earn up to $1,000 a month, anything more and the CERB is lost.

The disincentives to find work are part of the induced coma. Rest and relaxation is the prescription. Workers must stay home to avoid contagion. To encourage workers to help wake up the economy, they should be allowed to keep a larger portion of the benefit as they return to work with a gradual clawback as earnings rise.

This would be a step towards a basic annual income for all Canadians –an idea supported by both the right and left ends of the political spectrum. Sheila Regehr, chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, is urging just such a change. The group issued a policy paper in January that proposed a $22,000 annual benefit for a single adult. Under that proposal, benefits would be reduced by 40 cents for each dollar of earnings and would be eliminated entirely after a person’s income rose above $55,000.

Child care is another knotty problem. Parent returning to work need affordable child care, but they need to assured that they are not sending their children into harm’s way. Any uncertainty about public-health risks at daycares and schools will prove to be a significant disincentive for many Canadians to return to work.

The next decade may well be known as the Dark Twenties. The economy that awakes from the induced slumber might not recognize its former self.

Coronavirus tests Canada’s character

Canadians are seen as “nice” people, sensible, proud of Canada but not jingoistic, modest, not fanatically religious. The way we respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic will further define who we are.

Nice Canadian

The response to the pandemic in the U.S. has been politicized, similar to the response to climate change, with President Trump initially calling COVID-19 a hoax cooked up by his political opponents. Apparently some Republicans are following Trump’s initial lead and not socially isolating themselves by going to bars.

Canada can be an oasis of calm amid the global coronavirus freak-out. Political leaders can instil a sense of calm and confidence. One of those is Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer. She has become the face of Canada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadians are rising to the challenge of a worsening novel coronavirus outbreak, going out of their way to be kind. Jason Dudas of Kamloops posted on Facebook:

“A co-worker told me about an elderly woman collapsing at a North Shore grocery store this weekend. If you are in a lower risk group and can help out elderly people you know with shopping you will be helping with keeping them safe at home, using extra sanitary precautions around them. If high risk groups don’t change their behaviour we will have a serious run on our health care system. But if we all work together then can make it through this situation.”

Kyle Ashley in Toronto posted a sign in the lobby of his downtown building offering to provide whatever assistance he could. “It’s like a war,” Ashley said, referring to the pandemic. “We will have bad actors, but good will come out.”

I have just returned from Mexico and will to self-isolate for two weeks. Neighbours have offered to buy groceries for me. It’s going to be tough to cut off contact with others, not going for coffee or to meetings at the society where I volunteer.  Social isolation is important, especially for travelers returning to Canada who have gone through busy airports. It’s voluntary but it’s the right thing to do; the only way to “flatten the curve” and slow down the spread which could potentially affect more than half of Canadians.

This isn’t panic, it’s just good citizenship under adverse social conditions.

Universal healthcare defines how we care for each other. Healthcare puts the common good above that of individual desire. Responsible Canadians will weigh what they individually want and what is in the public good. Canadian professor of philosophy Mark Gerald Kingwell says:

“Politics is a series of bargains between individual desire and collective good. What always remains is the goal of robust public trust. Community health is a shared good, just like education, transit infrastructure and building standards. It’s a concept that people against vaccines, flu-shot refuseniks, and turnstile jumpers everywhere just don’t seem to grasp (Goble and Mail, March 12, 2020).”

Herd mentality is not in the common good. Canadian’s response to COVID-19 will demonstrate our steely resolve in the face of adversity. We can hold our heads high with pride in the measures we take to stop the spread of this pandemic.

 

Kenney should be careful what he wishes for

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney wants Canada’s equalization formula adjusted to be fairer to Albertans.

image: Macleans

When it comes to equalization payments to provinces, Albertans think that there must be a mistake. They see themselves as contributors to Quebec at a time when Quebec’s economy is on a roll and Alberta is in the dumps.

Kenney is being disingenuous when he claims that the current formula is unfair. His government was the author of the current formula in 2009 when he was a cabinet minister under the Harper Conservatives.

Kenney surely knows that one of the reasons Alberta pays more into equalization is that the province has more high-income earners. While only eleven per cent of Canadians live in Alberta, 21 per cent of Canada’s $100,000-plus earners live there.

Of course, high-income earners mean little if you are unemployed.  In October, 2019, Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent compared to Quebec at 4.7 per cent.

Income is just one factor in determining equalization says business reporter Konrad Yakabuski:

“The basis for determining whether any province qualifies for equalization payments is whether its fiscal capacity – the amount of revenue it could raise if it applied average tax rates, combined with its natural resource royalties – is below the national average. Despite a recession in Alberta following the 2014 crash in oil prices, and a slow recovery since, that province’s fiscal capacity remains far above the national average (Globe and Mail, Nov. 27, 2019).”

Kenny would like to see Alberta’s natural resources removed from this calculation, presumably so that Quebec would receive less. That plan would backfire because Quebec, too, has vast hydroelectric resources. Quebec would actually receive more according to calculations prepared by University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe.  Kenney’s plan would have seen Quebec receive $10.1 billion more in equalization payments over the past decade.

Kenney argues that unlike Quebec, Alberta’s resources are non-renewable and should be an exempt. Yet it was Kenney’s government that decided it would be unfair to distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources.

Quebec is a convenient straw man for Kenney, deflecting attention from the fact that Alberta’s riches were used in averting a provincial sales tax and not saved for a rainy day. Oil production was unwisely increased without the infrastructure to deliver it to market –a remedy my pipeline, the “people’s pipeline,” is about to resolve with construction under way.

Quebec’s budget surplus has to do with taxes –Quebec’s tax rates are 30 per cent higher than the Canadian average, whereas Alberta’s are 30 per cent lower. Kenny doesn’t have the courage to address Alberta’s real tax problem: no provincial sales tax.

Alberta’s wealth is, in part, the result of my tax dollars being pumped into the oil and gas industry. The feds recently announced a federal aid package for Canada’s oil and gas industry amounting to $1.6-billion.

As an author of the current formula, Kenney knows that the equalization is fair and yet he prefers to whip Albertans into a frenzy of retaliation and separation.

Five nations, one Arctic

Canada, the U.S., Russia, Denmark and Norway lay claim to parts of the Arctic. It’s not a trivial matter -30 per cent of the world’s gas reserves, 13 per cent of oil reserves, as well as iron and rare earth minerals lay beneath the rapidly melting icecap.

image: Athropolis

Science can inform the decision as to who owns what, and diplomacy could play a role as long as the hotheads stay out of the way.

Cooperation has been a hallmark of Arctic operations in the past in areas of search and rescue and military coordination. But that was when the Arctic was covered with an impenetrable sheet of ice, out of sight, out of mind.

Who owned the seabed of the under Earth’s oceans used to be easy. In the 1600s, nations extended their territory the distance that a cannon ball could be shot (three miles).

As the resources of the seas began to be exploited some nations ignored the three-mile limit. To resolve the matter, 160 countries agreed to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. Sovereign rights could then be extended to 200 nautical miles from their shoreline; and even beyond that if nations could present detailed geologic evidence of the extensions of their continental shelves.

Continental shelves are the areas that stretch out under relatively shallow waters before dropping into the deep sea. However, the rights to the continental shelves apply only to the seabed, not the waters above. Fishing and navigation in those waters remain open.

So far, the determination of sovereign rights to the seabed is fairly straightforward. The tricky part is determining exactly where the continental shelf ends and the deep sea floor begins. Canadian geophysicist David Moser, formerly from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia and now professor at the University of New Hampshire, says: “that’s where all the science is (Scientific American, August, 2019).”

An international body, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), has been set up to review claims. The CLCS has received claims from Canada, Russia and Denmark that overlap. The U.S. isn’t expected to make a claim until 2022 but it will likely overlap with Canada’s claim in different area. It’s going to take years to sort it out. And the U.S. claim is weakened by the fact that they never signed UNCLOS although they are cooperating with the agency so far, but who knows how much longer with the current U.S. administration?

As if things weren’t complicated enough, another factor is muddying the waters. UNCLOS allows for nations to extend sovereignty beyond continental shelves to ridges. UNCLOS doesn’t define exactly what a ridge is other than a wide band extending from continental shelf.

One of those ridges, the Lomonosov Ridge, is massive. It divides the Arctic Ocean in half, stretching all the way from Russia to Canada’s Ellesmere Island and next to Greenland. All three countries have made claims on the Lomonosov Ridge.

It’s going to take years to sort through the science. Where the science is unclear, a diplomatic resolution is required. Meanwhile political leaders must be patient.

Another complication is the belligerence of the current U.S. administration. In June, the U.S. Department of Defense warns of an “era of strategic completion,” and “a potential avenue for . . . aggression” in the Arctic.

The rapidly-warming warming of the Arctic is enough of a problem without the addition of hot rhetoric.