Catherine McKenna, a lawyer and Member of Parliament from Ottawa (Ottawa Centre riding), was selected by Justin Trudeau to serve as Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
McKenna was born and raised in Ontario. She has a BA from the University of Toronto (in French and International Relations), a MA from the London School of Economics (in International Relations), and a law degree from McGill. She has no environment science or policy training per se. Indeed, she is a human rights/social justice lawyer. Thus, what she brings to this cabinet portfolio is not environmental expertise, but legal expertise. This is perhaps fitting in an era where so much of environmental policy involves a deep understanding of the Canadian legal system, and especially the constitution.
In her Minister of Environment and Climate Change Mandate Letter, the Office of the Prime Minister asked Ms. McKenna to prioritize and implement these goals:
- Develop a climate change plan (with the provinces) that will reduce GHG emissions in a way that is both consistent with the Paris Protocol and sustainable economic growth.
- Develop a national emissions reduction target (with the provinces) that is flexible enough for provinces to design their own policies and receive federal funding for those policies
- Develop a “Low Carbon Economy Trust” with the Minister of Finance (this is fund the projects in #2)
- Focus on freshwater protection using education, GIS mapping, watershed protection, and research/development projects.
- Phase out fossil fuel industry subsidies (with the Minister of Finance)
- Work with Mexico and the USA to create a “North American Clean Energy and Environment Agreement.”
- Support investment in green infrastructure (work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities).
- Listen to scientists when listing endangered species on SARA and work to more quickly produce recovery documents.
- Set stronger air quality standards, monitor pollution emissions, and provide incentives (to the provinces) to create cleaner air.
- Review Canada’s environmental assessment process (work with the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans & Minister of Natural Resources & Canadian Coast Guard). (See post below.)
- Expand and manage Canada’s National Park System, National Wildlife Areas, and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. And create greater access to these treasured resources for Canadians.
- Focus on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River Basin, and the Lake Winnipeg Basin. (Work with Minister of Fisheries, Oceans).
- Investigate the relationship between climate change on the Arctic marine system (working with the Minister of Science and the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans)
- Increases Canada’s marine protected areas by 10% of 2020.
Over the next five years, these are the goals upon which I will measure the success of McKenna as Minister of Environment and Climate Change. (However, we must keep in mind that goals are only that – a desired result; a plan or a strategy. Times change and goals might also have to change. Nevertheless, these are the goals Trudeau put forward to McKenna.) Let’s press play and watch Canada become a cleaner, greener, and more biologically diverse nation.