‘Ambitious’ climate change action key to long-term economic wellbeing, LeBlanc says

Click to play video: 'Veteran minister Dominic LeBlanc on the government’s path forward with new cabinet' Veteran minister Dominic LeBlanc on the government’s path forward with new cabinet
WATCH: Veteran minister Dominic LeBlanc on the government’s path forward with new cabinet – Oct 31, 2021

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says taking “ambitious” action to fight climate change in all regions of the country will be crucial to protecting Canada’s long-term economic potential.

In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, LeBlanc said he’s confident the government can work with the provinces to blunt the impacts of climate change, and described Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as a “friend” with whom he had a “cordial and positive'” dialogue.

“We think that Canadians, in every part of the country, including in Alberta, want the government to take concerted, effective action – ambitious action in the fight against climate change,” LeBlanc said.

“But at the same time, (Canadians) recognize that very work is essential to ensuring long term sustainable jobs not only in the resource sectors, but right across the country.”

READ MORE: New federal environment minister says his climate plan is not a ‘secret agenda’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet last week, promoting a number of new faces while also removing several familiar ones from trusted positions around the cabinet table.

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Among the appointments that have raised questions was the naming of longtime environmental activist Steven Guilbeault as the minister for environment and climate change, and to move the previous environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, into the natural resources post.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan said the cabinet suggests a focus on the need for “sustainable, inclusive prosperity.”

“That means that you take on board the fact that there have been people who been excluded from our economic opportunity in this country. It means that you take on board the fact that our economy is in at the beginning, probably, of a transition to net-zero by 2050,” she said.

“But so much of what this government in Ottawa and other governments across Canada need and want to accomplish will depend upon strong, sustainable economic growth.”

Click to play video: 'An environmentalists COP26 wishlist' An environmentalists COP26 wishlist
An environmentalists COP26 wishlist – Oct 31, 2021

Former Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt echoed McLellan’s comments, highlighting the importance of focusing on economic growth — even among cabinet ministers who now find themselves in “traditionally” non-economic portfolios.

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“The economy and economic growth is actually the way in which we can ensure our country prospers, so it’s very important for (cabinet ministers) to think about it all the time,” she said.

“We need to have a sound plan on how to get to economic growth that is more than the anemic one per cent, half a per cent that we’ve currently been experiencing in the past number of years.”

The cost of renewable technology, such as wind and solar, has been significantly decreasing over the last decade, becoming the cheapest form of energy last year, according to recent data from World Economic Forum and International Renewable Energy Agency.

The 2020 report found that 62 per cent of renewable energy sources that became available last year were “cheaper than the cheapest new fossil fuel.”

Despite this, Canada is still one of the largest producers of fossil fuels, ranking as the sixth-biggest energy producer in the world.

Read more: Trudeau unveils new cabinet with 9 new faces, major shake ups to top jobs

While oil, gas and coal industries are on a worldwide decline, said Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty Initiative, they will have to come down to “almost zero by 2050” to make a real difference.

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“The fact is that we need to wind down production and emission of all oil, gas and coal, and we need to stop expansion now,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t use fossil fuels — we do — and it doesn’t mean we won’t produce them in the future, but we’re going to produce less.”

Berman, who is also the international program director of Stand.Earth, said the federal government needs to provide a clear signal to fossil fuel-producing industries that a shift is coming, in order to avoid repetitive billion-dollar subsidies and bailouts that act as short-term lifelines.

“We need to look at economic diversification and we need to acknowledge that this is an industry that is going to have to wind down in the next 10 to 20 years,” she said.

“We have to plan so that no worker and their family are left behind. But if we continue to ignore that problem, if we continue not to plan, it will be more difficult and more people will suffer.

“That money needs to be going to true solutions.”

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