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Canada Needs ‘Political Leadership’ on Climate: Natural Resources Minister Carr

This is a guest blog written by Mitchell Beer. The opinions expressed in this article are of the author’s, and are not necessarily reflective of the views of GreenPAC.

It’s important to have people in elected office who see issues like climate change as a priority for action.

It’s even better when a GreenPAC endorsee finds him or herself in a position to do something about the values we share.

Which is why this video testimonial should give us reason for hope—and a focus for the next couple of months of advocacy—as the Trudeau government begins the sprint to finalize its national climate strategy within 90 days of the United Nations climate summit in Paris.

“What we need in Canada is political leadership to tackle the challenges of climate change,” said GreenPAC endorsee Jim Carr, the newly elected Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre—and, since November 4, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources.

In this GreenPAC video, Carr traces his interest in climate to his participation in a provincial climate change task force, appointed by then-Manitoba premier Gary Doer and chaired by ex-foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy.

“It was an eye-opener to understand just how major an issue it has become, not only in the international community, but in Manitoba,” Carr said. Already, “the impact of climate change was beginning to be felt, particularly in the North, but throughout all our province.”

Carr’s mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau includes some of the key elements of a national climate strategy—from a focus on energy conservation, renewable energy, and a “smarter electricity grid,” to clean technology investment and tax support, to modernizing the National Energy Board, to reviewing Canada’s gutted environmental assessment regime to “regain public trust and introduce new, fair processes.”

Trudeau even instructs Carr to “work in partnership with the United States and Mexico and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environmental agreement.”

So there’s a lot to be done—and, potentially, a steep learning curve ahead for Carr’s new chief of staff, Janet Annesley, a former vice president at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“With the proposals for the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines still undergoing regulatory review, Carr now has a chief of staff with a solid background in the energy sector,” commented iPolitics energy specialist Mackenzie Scrimshaw. Though she might not yet be quite as conversant with the emerging energy sector that shines through as a priority in Carr’s mandate letter.

Then there’s Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s prediction that Carr will be Trudeau’s “loneliest cabinet minister,” replacing environment as the portfolio that has “no natural allies and many natural enemies” at the cabinet table. “The Natural Resources mandate letter rather reads as if it were intended for the Environment Minister,” Simpson writes. “In this government, natural resources development is an orphan and the environment has many fathers.”

Simpson’s analysis may be right. Or it may be the kind of oldthink that Trudeau seems determined to replace, in energy and environment as in many other subject areas. Either way, no GreenPAC endorsee should go lonely or friendless after they’re elected to Parliament. And certainly not after they’re appointed to cabinet.

Take it as given that we’ll be keeping an open line with the Minister of Natural Resources in the course of the year. And we’ll be watching for great things as Jim Carr begins putting his own deep concern about climate change into practice. Mitchell Beer is President of Ottawa-based Smarter Shift and curator of The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly digest on climate, energy, and low-carbon solutions.


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