Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released updated mandate letters for his 37-member cabinet Friday, and climate change was highlighted as a clear and present concern across government departments.
In addition to Jonathan Wilkinson, who was named minister of environment and climate change last month, 16 members of Trudeau's cabinet were given explicit directives to work on climate issues.
That includes ministers whose portfolios have traditionally overlapped with environmental concerns, such as the minister of natural resources and the minister of oceans and fisheries. But Trudeau is also challenging officials such as the minister of Canadian heritage, who will "work with national museums to increase Canadians' awareness of climate change" and work with Wilkinson on new legislation to regulate federally owned heritage lands. (Before entering politics, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault was a prominent environmental activist.)
Wilkinson, whose mandate letter calls on him to introduce new greenhouse-gas reduction initiatives to help Canada achieve its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement, will be an especially active and influential figure in cabinet.
In addition to Guilbeault, the mandate letters for Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains, Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Fisheries Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O'Regan and Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau all call upon their respective cabinet member to work directly with Wilkinson on specific projects.
Hajdu, for example, will work with Wilkinson and Bibeau on changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to protect people from pollution. Freeland and Wilkinson will work together on implementing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, developing carbon targets that exceed the Paris Agreement's 2030 goals with a mind to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Catherine McKenna, who served as environment minister following the 2015 election until Wilkinson's appointment, will have several responsibilities related to her old portfolio in her new job as infrastructure minister. She has been charged with leading the government's Clean Power Fund, which will finance clean-energy projects for northern, remote and Indigenous communities, and will also work with municipalities across Canada to disperse funding for climate initiatives through the Green Municipal Fund, the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program and the Municipal Asset Management Program.
"People have been clear that they want progress on the issues that matter most, from fighting climate change and strengthening the middle class to walking the road of reconciliation, keeping people safe and healthy and positioning Canada for success in an uncertain world," said Trudeau in a statement.
In his government's throne speech, delivered earlier this month at the opening of the 43rd Parliament, Trudeau made clear that climate change would be centre stage in his government's priorities going forward.
"Canada's children and grandchildren will judge this generation by its action — or inaction — on the defining challenge of the time: climate change," said Gov. Gen. Julie Payette in the speech.
Tim Gray, the executive director of Environmental Defence, praised the government's decision to factor climate and environmental issues into so many mandate letters.
"Tackling the climate crisis must be an overriding priority for all governments," he said in a statement. "Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy will create new opportunities, and the government has a responsibility to ensure that the transition is a just transition."
In particular, he flagged government commitments to ban single-use plastic products, reform the Environmental Protection Act and extend protections to the Great Lakes.
Here is a list of all the climate-related directives the prime minister gave cabinet ministers beyond the environment portfolio:
Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
- "Work with the national museums to increase Canadians’ awareness of climate change."
- "Work with the minister of environment and climate change, who is the minister responsible for Parks Canada, to provide clearer direction on how national heritage places should be designated and preserved and to introduce new comprehensive heritage legislation on federally owned heritage places."
Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
- "Ensure that all proceeds that the federal government receives from the Trans Mountain Expansion project, including incremental corporate income-tax revenue, dividends and capital gains on sale, are invested in nature-based climate solutions and clean-energy projects."
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
- "As the minister responsible for the National Research Council, work to continue to drive mission-oriented research to address the great challenges of our age, including climate change, clean growth and a healthy society."
- "Work with the minister of natural resources and the minister of environment and climate change to position Canada as a global leader in clean technology."
François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs
- "In collaboration with the minister of environment and climate change, continue Canadian leadership on international efforts to combat climate change."
Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
- "Work with the minister of transport, the minister of natural resources and the minister of environment and climate change to implement and further develop the Oceans Protection Plan. With the world’s longest coastline, Canada must have a world-leading plan to protect it and marine species at risk. Pursue additional initiatives working with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians to better co-manage our three ocean coasts."
- "Work with the minister of environment and climate change to introduce a new ambitious plan to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s land and 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, working toward 30 per cent by 2030. This plan should be grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives. Advocate at international gatherings that countries around the world set a goal of 30 per cent conservation by 2030 as well."
Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- "As minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, you will lead the government’s work in ensuring that Canadians are kept safe from a range of threats while safeguarding the rights and freedoms of Canadians. You will identify and prepare for threats to public security, including national security, cyber security and increasingly frequent climate-related emergencies."
Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
- "With the support of the minister of agriculture and agri-food and the minister of environment and climate change, work to ensure that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency makes timely science-based decisions to support the safe and sustainable use of effective pesticide products in Canada."
- "Work with the minister of environment and climate change to better protect people and the environment from toxins and other pollution, including by strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999."
- "With the support of the minister of innovation, science and industry, the minister of agriculture and agri-food and the minister of environment and climate change, address the serious and growing public-health threat of antimicrobial resistance by developing and implementing actions with partners to preserve the effectiveness of the antimicrobials that Canadians rely on every day."
Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
- "As deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs, you will work closely with me to strengthen the Canadian federation and lead work to implement national commitments and priorities that depend on strong relationships with other orders of government. These include strengthening the middle class, moving forward on climate action, making our communities safer and ensuring our health-care system is there for those who need it."
- "Work with the minister of environment and climate change to continue the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, while introducing additional carbon-reduction measures that exceed current 2030 targets and firmly put Canada on a trajectory to net-zero emissions by 2050. This work must also be done in close co-ordination with the minister of natural resources to ensure that the country’s vibrant energy sector is a full partner in this transition to a cleaner economy and that we continue our work to get our natural resources to world markets."
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
- "As the minister responsible for CMHC, support the minister of natural resources to operationalize a plan to help Canadians make their homes more energy efficient and climate resilient. This will include providing free energy audits to homeowners and landlords, up to $40,000 in interest-free lending for retrofits that will save Canadians money on their energy use, a cash incentive for borrowers to maximize their energy savings and creating a Net Zero Homes Grant of up to $5,000 for newly built homes that are certified zero-emissions."
Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs
- "Work with the minister of environment and climate change to monitor investments in the Eureka Weather Station on Ellesmere Island to ensure necessary upgrades to the station are made and to ensure its modernization and safety."
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
- "Expand Canadian defence co-operation and training assistance, in particular by drawing on the expertise of the Canadian Armed Forces to help other countries at greater risk of disasters due to climate change."
Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport
- "Work with the minister of innovation, science and industry, the minister of natural resources and the minister of environment and climate change to advance toward our zero-emission vehicles targets of 10 per cent of light-duty vehicles sales per year by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040."
Seamus O'Regan, Minister of Natural Resources
- "As minister of natural resources, you will work to ensure that our energy and natural-resource sectors remain a source of good middle-class jobs, prosperity and opportunity across the country. This includes supporting resource communities and workers as they shift into cleaner technologies and Canada meets its climate-action objectives, while also supporting and promoting the competitiveness of our Canadian companies in order to attract investment, open international markets and get resources to markets."
- "Work with the minister of innovation, science and industry and the minister of environment and climate change to position Canada as a global leader in clean technology, including in critical minerals."
- "With support from the minister of environment and climate change, operationalize the plan to plant two billion incremental trees over the next 10 years as part of a broader commitment to natural climate solutions."
- "Working with the minister of environment and climate change, help cities expand and diversify their urban forests. You will both also invest in protecting trees from infestations and, when ecologically appropriate, help rebuild our forests after a wildfire."
- "Support research and provide funding so that municipalities have access to domestic sources of climate-resilient and genetically diverse trees that will increase the resilience of our urban forests."
- "Work with the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion and the minister of labour and partners to advance legislation to support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon global economy."
- "Work with the minister of families, children and social development, who is the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, to operationalize a plan to help Canadians make their homes more energy efficient and climate resilient. This will include providing free energy audits to homeowners and landlords, up to $40,000 in interest-free lending for retrofits that will save Canadians money on their energy use, a cash incentive for borrowers to maximize their energy savings and creating a Net Zero Homes Grant of up to $5,000 for newly built homes that are certified net zero-emissions."
Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure
- "Launch a new call for proposals under the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to address the impacts of climate change, adjusting the program as required to ensure that the most impactful projects are supported, including those related to natural infrastructure, whether they are from small, rural and Indigenous communities or large urban centres."
- "Move forward with a Clean Power Fund, sourced through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to help finance the development and linking of clean energy to transmission systems and to support the transition of northern, remote and Indigenous communities from reliance on diesel-fueled power to clean, renewable and reliable energy. The Clean Power Fund will contribute to the achievement of Canada’s climate goals, helping move more electricity between provinces and regions and supporting the electrification of Canadian industries."
- "Work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities through the Green Municipal Fund, the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program and the Municipal Asset Management Program to build climate resilience, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, make better decisions and monitor investments and ensure they reduce emissions from residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings."
Karina Gould, Minister of International Development
- "As minister of international development, you will lead Canada’s efforts to reduce global poverty and inequality, provide humanitarian assistance, help the world’s poor adapt to climate change and support displaced persons, particularly with access to education. Core to your portfolio will be the implementation of the Feminist International Assistance Policy, which has made Canada the leading donor globally in support of gender equality, women’s rights and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights."
- "Develop additional programming on the intersection between women’s rights and climate adaptation in order to better support sustainable and equitable resource management, agricultural production and access to markets."
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture
- "Support the minister of environment and climate change to create a new Canada Water Agency to work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, local authorities, scientists and others to find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean and well-managed."