The ongoing absence of a board of directors at the Canadian Polar Commission could hurt Arctic research, says one prominent researcher.
Benoit Beauchamp, executive director of the Arctic Institute of North America, said the two-year absence of a board at Canada’s lead polar research agency could mean misspent money and missed opportunities in the field of northern research.
The commission is a federal advisory agency set up in 1991 to monitor, promote and disseminate scientific research on Canada’s Arctic. It has been operating without a sitting board of directors since October 2008 because the federal government has yet to appoint members to the board.
“It does affect any organization or institution that has an interest in gaining Arctic knowledge, Arctic science,” Beauchamp told CBC News.
“To have it crippled as it has been for the past two years is not a good idea. I think nobody wins if we keep doing that.”
Beauchamp said other northern countries may think Canada is not serious about its Arctic policy by neglecting expert panels like the Canadian Polar Commission.
Arctic interest growing
With public, political and scientific interest in the Arctic growing, Beauchamp said it is crucial to have a functioning polar research commission in Canada.
“The time is absolutely ripe to have a body that can speak with a certain degree of independence about the North and the Arctic — to the public in general and to our policy-makers and decision-makers in Ottawa,” he said.
Appointments to the Canadian Polar Commission’s 12-person board must be made as orders-in-council from the offices of the prime minister and the Privy Council.
Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell said he has been calling on the federal government since June 2009 to appoint a new board to the commission. Bagnell said he is still waiting for an answer.
Federal officials have maintained that a new board will be appointed soon, but no date has been mentioned.
While the commission is not a funding agency, it does advise the federal government on what direction Arctic research should take.
“What exactly should the government therefore be funding related to research? What type of directions should the taxpayer be paying for?” Bagnell said.
In a news release Tuesday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said it is “utterly irresponsible to leave a federal agency with a million-dollar annual budget with no guidance and no oversight from a board of directors.”