If Climate Laggards Like Canada’s Conservatives and Alberta’s Tar Sands Premier Jason Kenney Don’t Like Steven Guilbeault, Maybe He’s the Right Person for the Job
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted November 2nd, 2021 on Niagara At Large
When Mel Swart – a true champion for social justice and one of Niagara’s most progressive politicians, serving as an NDP member in the provincial legislature – passed away in 2007, some of his political colleagues and friends, including then Niagara Centre NDP MPP Peter Kormos and then St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley (now Niagara’s Regional Chair) eulogized him by saying he made all the right enemies.
And Mel Swart certainly did that.
Mel Swart found himself facing opposition from almost every individual or organization working to defend a status quo that favoured the rich and privileged or that exploited people, communities and our natural heritage for short-term gain.
And what made Mel Swart such a bonafide working-class hero is that he never let the opposition stop him. If anything, he wore it as a badge of honour.
That brings me to the subject of Quebec Liberal MP Steven Guilbeault and his recent appoint as the Canada’s new Minister of Environment and Climate Change in the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
For those who may not know, Guilbeault has had a long history as an environmental activist, working with Greenpeace and other Canada-wide groups on issues like water and air pollution, the depletion of our green places and climate change. He was arrested at least once for an act of civil disobedience to draw attention to environmental issues and he has been an opponent of building any more pipelines for the Alberta tar sands.
So surprise, surprise.
No sooner is Trudeau’s new cabinet sworn in on October 26th than the Guilbeault appointment is slammed by federal and provincial Conservatives who don’t take issues like climate change as seriously as we all should in the first place.
Alberta’s Conservative Premier Jason Kenny, who always comes across like he would keep the tar sands going for the next 100 years, was one of the first out of the gate, summing up the choice of Guilbeault for the federal environment portfolio as “problematic.”
Then there was a statement by the federal Conservative MP Greg McLean for Calgary Centre in Alberta saying; “Steven Guilbeault has dedicated his life to trying to shut down Canada’s oil and gas sector. By handpicking him to be the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Prime Minister is continuing his attack on Canada’s oil and gas sector.”
There is Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel who, in a separate news release, brands Guilbeault as “an ideological, anti-energy activist.”
“Mr. Guilbeault’s record,” Rempel continues, “ is one of trying to divide Canadians on climate action and fight to shut down entire industries. This approach is wrong for Canada and Canadians.”
Then there is the federal Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, who presides over a caucus that, at a gathering of party representatives, could not even find enough of them to agree that the climate crisis we are now facing is at least partially driven by human activities.
A recent CBC report on the federal Conservative leader’s criticism of Trudeau’s new cabinet reads, in part; “O’Toole’s talk of a national unity threat appears to be a thinly veiled reference to the appointment of long-time Quebec climate activist Steven Guilbeault to the position of environment minister. In the past, the Conservatives said Guilbeault’s very presence in the Liberal Party suggests Trudeau is hostile to the oil and gas industry, a business that sustains tens of thousands of jobs and pumps billions into government coffers.”
So there is a sample of opposition to the Guilbeault appointment from some of the usual suspects and to get back to my opening point, it is a credit to him already that he appears to have made all the right enemies, and let’s hope it continues that way.
By the way, it a laughable to read Calgary Conservative MP Greg McLean claiming that by choosing Guilbeault for the federal environment portfolio, Trudeau “is continuing his attack on Canada’s oil and gas sector.”
Since when, in his six years as Prime Minister, has Trudeau attacked an oil and gas sector that, if anything, he has received criticism from environmentalists for supporting with multiple billions of dollars invested in subsidies and the construction of a controversial Tran Mountain pipeline from the Alberta tar pits to the west coast.
All we hope for now is that Trudeau gives his new Environment Minister some space to finally make the shift from climate-ravaging oil and gas production to more renewable, environmentally sustainable sources of energy, and that he does it in a way that offers those working in the fossil fuel field new opportunities to make a living.
Coming out of the COP26 global climate summit now in session in Glasgow, Scotland, we shall see.
So please Mr. Guilbeault, continue making all the right enemies, and like the late great Mel Swart, wear it like a badge of honour.
– Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
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