McKenna may be moved to new cabinet role after four years implementing Grits’ climate policies, say politicos

By Neil Moss

Catherine McKenna’s ‘tenure in environment would have prepared her well for any other kind of responsibility the prime minister may assign,’ says former environment minister Jean Charest.

After winning re-election in Ottawa Centre, Ont., on Oct. 21, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna could be in line for a new cabinet post after four years on the divisive file, say politicos.

“I will do whatever role I’m asked to do,” Ms. McKenna told The Hill Times in an interview on Oct. 22, adding that whatever role she serves in, she will continue to work on climate change.

“I was very hopeful that I would be able to stay for the full four years” of the 42nd Parliament, she said, in order to see carbon pricing and the government’s new environmental impact assessment process implemented, and environmental protections increased.

Since being sworn-in as the federal environment minister on Nov. 4, 2015, Ms. McKenna has been front-and-centre as the Trudeau government spokesperson on its at times contentious climate policies.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network, said Ms. McKenna “went to bat” for climate action and “has a lot” to be proud of,  but that it wouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a “negative” for Ms. McKenna to leave the post.

“I would see it as her leadership having been demonstrated and being usefully applied [to] another role, and there being other environment leaders to lift up in the party,” she said.

Historically in Canada, environment ministers have held the portfolio for short periods of time. Ms. McKenna is the second-longest serving environment minister in Canadian history, behind David Anderson who held the post in the Chrétien and Martin governments for five years, from 1999 to 2004.

Jean Charest, who was environment minister in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government from 1991 to 1993, said four years is a long time for any minister to hold the same post, but especially for an environment minister.

Mr. Charest, who later served as the Liberal premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012, also said Ms. McKenna’s time overseeing the file has been tougher than other previous environment ministers because of the “vocal and vitriolic” nature of the opposition to her policy proposals. With all that, Mr. Charest said, she’s performed well.

“Her tenure in environment would have prepared her well for any other kind of responsibility the prime minister may assign,” he said.

“There’s a constituency of one who will decide what her responsibility’s will be, and that’s Prime Minister Trudeau,” Mr. Charest said.

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