It’s August, so why talk about snowmobiles?
Well, every summer Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has headed up north to champion issues relating to Canada’a Arctic region, both land and sea. The trips get mixed reviews, as with this explanation from Michael Den Tandt.
This is Harper’s eighth such visit. The current 6-day tour has generated a small flurry of news about actual Arctic topics, such as Russia beating the world when it comes to shipping that that region. It also supplies handy out-of-the-way locations in which to toss out things like reducing bi-lingual answers in press conferences and plans to prorogue (suspend) parliament until October.
There were also news reports about snowmobiles – specifically super quiet snowmobiles being developed under contract at a cost in the range of $620K (CAD). As reported by Andy Blatchford:
The Canadian Press has learned that soldiers have taken the new hybrid-electric snowmobile prototype on trial runs to evaluate features such as speed, noise level, battery endurance and acceleration.
The Department of National Defence even has a nickname for its cutting-edge, covert tool: “Loki,” after the “mythological Norse shape-shifting god.”
The effort to produce a snowmobile worthy of James Bond takes place in a time of budget reductions that can’t keep up with providing sufficient regular snowmobiles, or even winter parkas, according to this account by the Canadian Press.
When it comes to military spending, Canada is something of a lightweight. The U.S. leads the way. Here’s a detailed article from the Washington Post full of charts on the U.S. defense budget. (Fun fact: In 2011, the U.S. spent $711 billion, which out stripped the $695 billion spent by the next 13 highest-spending countries combined.)
Even though the U.S. spends the most overall, when military spending is measured as a percentage of GNP, other countries come out ahead.
Here’s a ranking from the World Bank for 2011: Saudi Arabia 8.4%, Israel 6.8%, Oman 6.0%, Iraq 5.1%, Azerbaijan 4.9%. Tied at 4.7%: U.S., Jordan and Afghanistan. Further down, Russia spent 3.9% and China 2.0%.Canada came in at 1.4%.
Of course, military spending is contentious in any country. What’s too little, what’s too much? And how useful might a silent snowmobile be?