© Jason Ransom / PMO

Making frequent appearances in news stories of Stephen Harper’s annual trip to the north last month was the word "legacy." For some time now, journalists and political junkies have been eyeing Harper’s northern interest as the defining issue of his tenure as Prime Minister.  He uses all the right language in carefully crafted press releases. He talks about jobs, sovereignty, and even throws in the term “sustainable” from time to time. But on every northern trip Harper has taken in the last eight years, he has ignored two issues that significantly impact the region: climate change and destructive offshore oil drilling.

Harper’s deliberate failure to address the impacts of our warming climate on northern communities and his willingness to facilitate the wont of exploitative oil companies seeking to drill in Arctic waters, will devastate the planet. Some legacy.

Climate scientists agree that if global temperatures increase by more than two degrees, the results could be catastrophic for life on earth. We are already seeing signs of severe weather – including flooding and drought – in communities across Canada and the world, and northern communities are facing the harshest impacts. Arctic sea ice is melting faster than expected, putting coastal communities at risk. Thawing permafrost is threatening transportation and housing infrastructure. The high cost of living in the north is only exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, but what has Harper done to address these realities?

If this wasn’t enough, Harper is now planning to use Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council to give a stronger voice to oil companies who want to exploit the region for their own profit. Instead of seeing the melting Arctic sea ice as an alarm signal to take action on climate change, Harper and his oil company friends see it as an opportunity to drill for more of the fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. We know the oil industry is not equipped to operate in the harsh conditions of the Arctic sea. We know that if they’re permitted to drill, spills will occur. We also know that the damage from even just one oil spill is irreversible.

Rather than tapping the Arctic for oil and threatening northern communities and wildlife, we can invest in efficiency and renewable energy projects that will reduce our dependence on oil, create jobs, and foster real sustainable economic development.

Instead of allowing these risky operations to go forward, we need Canada to use its authority as chair of the Arctic Council to work with all Arctic nations to ban offshore oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic, ban unsustainable fishing that will destroy its fragile ecosystems, and support declaring a global sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole.

Together, we can make these demands a reality. Add your voice to the Save the Arctic campaign and send an email to Stephen Harper today.