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Obama’s Arctic Hype Highlights Absence of Climate Issue In Canadian Elections

Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press

An international summit on Arctic issues that seems designed to burnish the green legacy of U.S. President Barack Obama is highlighting the absence of climate debate so far in Canada’s federal election.

Foreign ministers from eight countries met Monday in Anchorage, Alaska, at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, where they discussed “challenges and opportunities” related to climate change in the ecologically and geo-politically sensitive region.

Canada, with the world’s longest Arctic coastline, had an official delegation in Anchorage headed by a senior civil servant rather than Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson.

Nicholson’s absence was “due to the ongoing federal election,” according to departmental spokeswoman Diana Khaddaj — an apparent nod to the “caretaker convention” that discourages all but the most routine and uncontroversial ministerial actions during the election period when Parliament is dissolved.

In his closing statement at the Alaska summit, Kerry made a passing reference to Canada’s absent foreign minister.

“The bottom line is that climate is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about. It is now. It is happening now,” said Kerry.

“And I think anybody running for any high office in any nation in the world should come to Alaska or to any other place where it is happening and inform themselves about this. It is a seismic challenge that is affecting millions of people today.”

Opposition parties have been railing against the environmental policy record of Stephen Harper’s governing Conservatives for almost a decade but the Alaska summit in Canada’s northern backyard raised nary a peep from the various campaigns.

In fact, a month into the official election race and with seven weeks remaining before Canadians go to the polls Oct. 19, climate change as been largely absent from the election dialogue to date.

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