Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 28, 2021
New environment minister faces questions about past activism
Canada’s new environment minister says his past as an activist should not raise alarms in the energy industry or the office of Alberta’s premier.
“I don’t have a secret agenda as environment minister,” Steven Guilbeault said today after the first meeting in Ottawa of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet. “It’s a government effort to tackle … what many consider one of humanity’s greatest challenges, which is climate change.”
Guilbeault said the government’s plan to fight climate change is “very clear” and most of it — such as carbon pricing and the push for more public transit and cleaner energy sources — is “already known.”
The Trudeau government has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Before entering electoral politics in 2019, the Quebec MP co-founded Équiterre, a Quebec-based environmental organization, and was the director of a provincial chapter of Greenpeace. He spoke out against pipeline projects, including the Trans Mountain expansion.
Guilbeault also took part in stunts to draw attention to environmental causes.
In 2001, Guilbeault was arrested after scaling Toronto’s CN Tower to raise awareness of climate change. In 2002, he was involved in a Greenpeace stunt that saw activists climb onto the roof of then Alberta premier Ralph Klein’s house to install solar panels.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that Guilbeault’s appointment to the environment portfolio sends a “very problematic message” to the province.
“I certainly hope that [Guilbeault] … will quickly demonstrate to Alberta, and other resource-producing provinces, a desire to work together constructively on practical solutions that don’t end up killing hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Kenney said.
Asked about Kenney’s comments, Guilbeault said oil companies already recognize that more needs to be done to tackle climate change and that many already have agreed to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. He also noted that the new mayor of Calgary, Jyoti Gondek, wants the city to declare a climate emergency.
Canadians made it clear in the recent federal election campaign that they want “not just the federal government but all governments to do more” to address climate change, he said. (CBC)