WHISTLER, B.C. - The Arctic may be a hot commodity, but a conference has heard that Canada and the United States are barely out of the ice age when it comes to harnessing the region's growth potential.
Business and political leaders from both countries heard that while Russia is building ice breakers to help transport liquefied natural gas to Asia through Arctic waters, jurisdictions in Alaska and the Yukon are still trying to organize business meetings over the issue.
Delegates attending the annual Pacific Northwest Economic Region Summit in Whistler, B.C., said Arctic development in Alaska and Canada's northern territories is ripe with resource, transportation and tourism potential, but the region is decades behind the Russia.
Canadian Arctic expert John Higginbotham says the North requires the highest levels of political and business attention to keep up with the Russians.
The University of Victoria's Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly says almost 40 per cent of Russian's economic wealth is generated from the Arctic, while Canada pulls less than 10 per cent of its gross domestic product form the North.
Alaska state Rep. Bob Herron says they need to launch an awareness campaign that highlights the Arctic's importance to the world.