While the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is still necessarily taking up most of the oxygen on Parliament Hill, climate action and a green recovery figure fairly prominently in a new batch of ministerial mandate letters released last Thursday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While “our country has been confronted by the most serious public health crisis we have ever faced,” Trudeau writes, “it is necessary for us to continue making progress on the commitments laid out in 2019, while ensuring our actions are centred on fighting the pandemic and building back better.” COVID-19 “must be our top priority, climate change still threatens our health, economy, way of life, and planet,” he adds, and “clean growth is the best way to create good jobs and power our long-term economic recovery.”
At least a dozen of the 36 updated mandate letters contain specific instructions related to the climate crisis or climate solutions.
• Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s letter includes references to carbon pricing, home energy retrofit funding, policy work on border carbon adjustments, and tax incentives for cleantech and zero-emission technology.
• Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson receives lead responsibility for implementing the country’s 2030 climate plan and legislating a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. He’s to “continue putting a price on pollution while putting that money back in the pockets of Canadians”, while working with other ministers on nature-based climate solutions and biodiversity loss, urban parks and green spaces, emissions reductions and resilience for farmers, ranchers, and foresters, the new Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, a national climate adaptation strategy, and more.
• Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair is to work with other ministers on the national adaptation plan.
• Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna is mandated to conduct the country’s first national infrastructure assessment and “undertake long-term planning toward a net-zero emissions future”. She’s to deliver “affordable, active, and zero-emissions transit options” along with permanent federal transit funding and support a list of other ministers’ initiatives—from the national adaptation strategy, to the home energy retrofit plan, to urban parks with cycling and walking infrastructure, to regional clean energy projects like the proposed Atlantic Loop initiative.
• Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, whose letter makes no explicit reference to the fossil and nuclear industries he’s been so avidly supporting of late, is to lend his support to the national building retrofit plan, the Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, the drive to make Canada competitive in zero-emission vehicles and batteries, clean power projects like the Atlantic Loop, the national adaptation strategy, and the push for nature-based climate solutions.
• Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau receives a mandate to help farmers and ranchers reduce emissions and build resilience, promote nature-based climate solutions, build more resilient water and irrigation infrastructure, and work on food insecurity, with a particular focus on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
• Special Representative for the Prairies Jim Carr, who returns to Cabinet following cancer treatment, is to “support investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and next-generation clean energy and technology solutions, including in Indigenous communities,” while contributing to the launch of the Net-Zero Accelerator Fund and the climate adaptation strategy.
• Transport Minister Omar Alghabra joins cabinet with a mandate to secure a bailout deal for the country’s airline industry, work with O’Regan to make zero-emission vehicles more affordable and widespread, and support introduction of the Net-Zero Accelerator Fund.
• Industry and Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne is instructed to work with other ministers to launch the Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, support renewable energy and cleantech investments, and boost the affordability and scope of zero-emission vehicles.
• Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal receives responsibilities related to regional investments in renewable and affordable energy and food insecurity.
• Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos is instructed to help reduce emissions and boost resilience through the Greening Government Strategy, and apply a climate lens to reduce the government’s own emissions 40% by 2025 and to net-zero by 2050.
• Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand is mandated to work with Duclos on the Greening Government Strategy.