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Green Economy, Climate Change Emerge as Key Priorities for Trudeau Government

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The green economy and climate change are shaping up as a key focal point for the re-elected Trudeau government, with seven cabinet portfolios set to play “key roles in helping Canada adapt to the rapidly expanding global green economy and create jobs in clean energy,” the Globe and Mail reports, citing sources familiar with the government’s emerging priorities.

“A senior government official who was not authorized to speak publicly about cabinet decision-making said there is a large consensus in the country about the importance of fighting climate change and diversifying the economy,” the Globe states [1]. “The Greens and the NDP have similar environmental policies as the Liberals, and the Bloc Québécois would likely support some of the environmental agenda.”

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Citing the Liberals’ campaign commitments to “act on clean fuel standards, the phaseout of coal, electric vehicles, green finance, energy efficiency, and renewable energy,” the paper lists seven departments with major roles in delivering on the promise: Finance; Global Affairs; Innovation, Science and Economic Development; Environment; Natural Resources; Intergovernmental Affairs; and Justice.

The Globe quotes a Clean Energy Canada study, released last month at the height of the campaign, that shows [3] the country’s green energy sector growing faster than the rest of the economy, employing 298,000 people in 2017, and on track to create 559,400 jobs by 2030.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is receiving [4] some unexpected praise from the fossil industry, after appointing former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan as an unpaid advisor to help bridge the gap between Ottawa and the two oilpatch provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, that did not elect a single Liberal MP two weeks ago.

“We’re hopeful that she will be a helpful source of advice and insight to support the Trudeau government,” said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Vice-President Ben Brunnen. “She knows oilsands.”

McLellan, who served in cabinet under then-prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, “had a role in the growth of the oilsands industry in the Fort McMurray region,” CBC recalls. “In 1995, as minister of natural resources, McLellan was Ottawa’s point person on the Oilsands Task Force, which resulted in tax cuts at both the provincial and federal levels.” Those tax subsidies included capital cost allowances that “helped stimulate tens of billions of dollars in spending” by allowing companies to quickly write off the cost of their investments.

“Anne McLellan really stood up for the oil and gas industry,” said Gary Mar, the president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada. While she won’t be at the cabinet table, Mar said he hoped McLellan ” would provide the same kind of advice to the prime minister on how we can develop energy in a responsible way and meet our environmental targets”.

Besides McLellan, Trudeau can expect to hear from a new caucus of largely Western Canadian senators—consisting of former Conservatives and Independents, and one former Liberal—including fossil senator Doug Black [3], who was a persistent voice for the oilpatch in the last Parliament.

“It takes a minimum of nine senators to form a new group, all of whom have to sign a legal declaration that they are leaving their old caucuses,” writes [5] veteran reporter Michael Harris, who broke the story for The Tyee. “With that comes research budget, staff, guaranteed seats on committees, and statements in the Senate. It would also give them greater opportunity to ask questions of the government representative in the Red Chamber, Senator Peter Harder.”

But the fossil lobby won’t be the only voice in town. Mi’kmaq lawyer and political commentator Pamela Palmeter is calling on Ottawa to address two key crises that were fully evident before the 2019 election.

“Canada lacks an emergency action plan to deal with climate change, and it lacks a justice plan to end genocide against Indigenous women and girls,” she writes [6] for Now Magazine. “If ever there was a time to govern differently, that time is now.”

A minority parliament will make it more challenging for Trudeau to keep his government in power, and “only a stable government will be able to take the sort of immediate and targeted action needed to move in substantive ways on genocide and climate change,” Palmeter says. But both are areas where the government can seek common ground with younger people who “are engaged in politics in ways we have not seen before and are beginning to see the power they wield in this country.”