New minister, new title: Catherine McKenna takes on environment and climate change portfolio

Catherine McKenna got a cabinet posting with a new title Wednesday: The Ottawa Centre MP is Canada’s new Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

The second part of that department name is a symbolic addition, indicating the government’s emphasis on dealing with a warming world.

“Canadians expect their government to be responsible around climate change and addressing the impacts of the environment we are facing around the world right now,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.

“Canada is going to be a strong and positive on the world stage, including in Paris at COP21” – a global climate change conference Trudeau and Mckenna will attend next month.

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Louise Comeau, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, lauded the appointment and the “climate change” inclusion.

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“We see the potential for Canada to shift its stance on climate change to one that ensures we take on our fair share to keep the world from dangerous global warming,” Comeau said in an email. “There is hard work ahead, but today we are pleased to see these appointments.”

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McKenna, who defeated NDP MP Paul Dewar in stunning election upset, is a 44-year-old lawyer who co-founded and led the non-profit Canadian Lawyers Abroad. According to her website, she focused on international trade and competition and was a legal adviser and negotiator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

And she’ll be busy: After she and Trudeau lead a Canadian delegation to the upcoming climate conference in Paris, the government has 90 days to establish a national plan for combatting climate change.

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Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, congratulated to the new environment minister but said “she will need to hit the ground running.”

“The outcome of the summit will have major implications for the future of our planet,” said Gray in a statement. “Paris will be the first test of the new Minister and the new government’s dedication to tackling climate change and building a clean economy. It’s a crucial moment for Canada to arrive with a clear plan that will contribute meaningfully to forging a solution to this critical global issue.”

The Liberals made several environmental promises in their election platform, including revamping the environmental assessment process, working with the provinces to put a price on carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They have also vowed to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

The Liberals will also review Conservative government changes to the Fisheries Act and the elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

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