Canada's icy reception deepens doubts on G7 role

Wed Feb 3, 2010 2:38pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is sliding out the dog sleds to welcome the world's top finance officials to the Arctic this weekend, but its unusual choice of venue has only underscored doubts as to whether the Group of Seven rich nations is relevant today.

At a time when extra clout for emerging powers like China has put the G7's future in question, Ottawa's decision to host the group's finance ministers and central bank governors in Iqaluit, a frostbitten outpost some 300 km (200 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, is not helping matters.

"With all due respect, the Canadians are crazy to organize it in a place like that," said one European official who declined to be named.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said his peers approved of the "pristine and gorgeous" location.

But Washington, which played a key role last year in designating the Group of 20 developing and industrialized nations as the premier forum for economic issues, is seen as unenthusiastic about the meeting and has said nothing so far about what it wants on the agenda.

Iqaluit, which means "place with many fish" in the native Inuktitut language, is a town of about 6,000 that's accessible only by air or sea. Bad weather can leave travelers stranded for days, with thick fog possible in winter.

Flaherty sees the meeting as a chance to showcase Canada's Arctic to his international peers, and he is planning a dog-sledding adventure for his colleagues on Friday.

The following day the territorial government of Nunavut invites locals and delegates to a traditional Inuit feast that will feature local delicacies like caribou and raw and cooked seal meat, with "southern food" options for the timid. Some ministers are leaving early, before the feast.   Continued...

<p>The town Iqaluit, Nunavut on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic is shown at dusk August 16, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>