Canada’s almost finished paying for the Cold War

The $575-million cleanup of old radar sites is nearly complete
Thousands of containers of contaminated soil and other waste sit on the site of an old Distant Early Warning System site at Cape Dyer, Nunavut, waiting for transport south in this July, 2011 handout photo. Canada’s defence department will spend $575 million cleaning up its 21 DEW line sites, making it one of the most expensive such projects in Canadian history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Department of National Defence- Dave Eagles
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Department of National Defence- Dave Eagles

Probably, you’ve forgotten all about the Cold War. More than likely, you didn’t know the government’s still paying for the thing.

Back when Soviet bombers haunted the nightmares of every nuclear-fearing North American from Tuktoyaktuk to El Paso, Canada and the United States built a series of radar networks across the northern rim of the continent. They were meant to warn of pending nuclear disaster that, fingers crossed, a fleet of interceptors could quell before missiles reached our biggest cities.

Of course, nuclear winter never came. But those radar sites, about half of which operated until 1993, have spent the last 20 years in mothballs. Until recently, many of them sat on contaminated ground. A couple of days ago, the feds celebrated the conclusion of a years-long cleanup effort at Baffin Island’s Cape Dyer, one of the more sophisticated sites—it served as a logistical hub, featured a long runway, etc.—in the Arctic network that CBC reports was marred by “contaminated soil, old barrels and other detritus.” The press release announcing the newly decontaminated site was nine years in the making.

The total cost of the cleanup contract, across all sites, added up to $575 million—a big get for Qikitaaluk Logistics, an Inuit-owned company that submitted the winning bid. CBC reports that “about 10” sites remain to be cleaned up in Canada’s Arctic.

Then, finally, the only money any Canadian will spend on the Cold War will be at The Diefenbunker, a museum that’s somehow more surreal than any Arctic landscape.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with waning international support for military intervention in Syria. The National Post fronts British Prime Minister David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to secure parliamentary support for intervention. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the Ontario police watchdog’s claim that Toronto police chief Bill Blair doesn’t respond to complaints. The Ottawa Citizen leads with a federal decision to award a $5-billion shipbuilding contract to a single company, even though that could eventually drive up costs. iPolitics fronts the Idle No More movement’s struggle to stay in the headlines. CBC.ca leads with U.S. President Barack Obama’s consideration of unilateral intervention in Syria. CTV News leads with delays related to the UN’s investigation of last week’s alleged chemical attack in Syria. National Newswatch showcases a CBC story about politicians’ personal lives being mostly off limits in Canada.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. China. Last week, Chinese Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan visited Canada for unpublicized meetings with Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.2. Great Lakes. The International Joint Commission recommended Canada and the United States take action to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie that’s creating large algae blooms.
3. Guns. RCMP seized 183 guns, including assault rifles, in a remote community in British Columbia. They were purchased legally but apparently sold off, potentially to criminal groups.4. Mars. An ambitious plan to set up a human colony on the red planet by 2023, called Mars One, has drawn over 165,000 applicants from 140 countries—including 7,000 Canadians.
5. Afghanistan. Taliban militants killed 15 Afghan police officers during a mountain-side highway ambush in the western Farah province. Ten other officers were wounded in the attack.6. Colombia. Protesters who supported struggling farmers and coffee growers in Colombia clashed with riot police in central Bogota, where two people have been killed and at least 175 arrested.