BANFF – Thew new federal minister responsible for Parks Canada and Banff National Park has been given his marching orders by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In his Dec. 16 mandate letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, the prime minister spelled out climate change is the top priority, noting the science is clear on the need for taking real climate change action, but “we must also move faster and go further.”
“As Canadians are increasingly experiencing across the country, climate change is an existential threat. Building a cleaner, greener future will require a sustained and collaborative effort from all of us,” said Trudeau in his letter to Guilbeault.
“As minister, I expect you to seek opportunities within your portfolio to support our whole-of-government effort to reduce emissions, create clean jobs and address the climate-related challenges communities are already facing.”
As the minister whose portfolio includes Parks Canada, Guilbeault is tasked with overseeing the establishment of 10 new national parks and 10 new national marine conservation areas in the next five years, working with Indigenous communities on co-management agreements for these places.
Trudeau said the new minister also must work to establish at least one new national urban park in every province and territory, with a target of 15 new urban parks by 2030.
“You will also invest in existing national parks,” said the prime minister, noting that more Canadians than ever before are visiting national parks. Banff, for example, has more than four million visitors a year.
Trudeau appointed Quebec’s Guilbeault as federal minister of environment and climate change as part of his November 2021 cabinet shakeup following the Liberal Party’s win in the October 2021 federal election.
With a controversial past of arrests and civil disobedience in a bid to bring attention to key environmental issues, Guilbeault has long been a prominent advocate in the fight against the climate crisis.
First elected in 2019 as MP for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Guilbeault’s commitment to environmental issues started when he was just five years old when he climbed a tree to protect it from real estate developers who were about to cut down the woods behind his home in La Tuque.
Twenty-five years later, he made national headlines when he scaled the CN Tower in Toronto in 2001 to protest Canada’s lack of action on climate change, calling for ratification of the 1997 Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
He has also worked as a director and campaign manager for Greenpeace. His antics drew widespread media attention in 2002 as one of the organizers behind a crew of Greenpeace activists who climbed the roof to place solar panels on the home of then-Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.
As part of his new mandate from Trudeau, Guilbeault is charged with driving the federal government’s climate plan, delivering on policy and fiscal measures outlined in the strengthened climate plan and adopting additional measures to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
By the end of March 2022, the new minister must set out how Canada will meet its legislated 2030 climate goals.
Trudeau said this will include new measures related to capping and cutting oil and gas sector emissions, further reducing methane emissions across the economy, mandating the sale of zero-emissions vehicles and setting Canada on a path to achieve an electricity grid with net-zero emissions by 2035.
“You will also work with your colleagues and crown corporations to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by 2023,” wrote Trudeau to Guilbeault.
“Your work to protect communities and our abundant and diverse natural habitats and waters, including by advancing Indigenous-led conservation efforts, will also be crucial to secure a cleaner, healthier and greener future for Canadians.”
In addition, Guilbeault is tasked with supporting the new federal tourism minister, Edmonton’s Randy Boissonault, in developing a national trails tourism strategy.
Working to continue building and connecting the Trans Canada Trail by increasing annual funding and growing the trail network over the next five years is also part of his job.
Guilbeault is also charged with working hand-in-hand with Joyce Murray, the minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard on Canada’s goals to conserve 25 per cent of its lands and waters by 2025 and 30 per cent of each by 2030.
Trudeau said they must work together to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 in Canada “achieve a full recovery for nature by 2050.”
“You will ensure that this work remains grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives,” he wrote.
With the Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson – who was the previous minister of environment and climate change – Guilbeault is tasked with helping protect old growth forests, particularly in British Columbia.
That work includes reaching a nature agreement with B.C. and establishing a $50 million B.C. Old Growth Nature Fund.
“Ensuring First Nations, local communities and workers are partners in shaping the path forward for nature protection,” Trudeau said.
Guilbeault must work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to support new Indigenous guardians programs and establish new Indigenous guardians networks, and support Indigenous communities to build capacity to establish more Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.
While the lengthy mandate letter has many more expectations, other priorities include achieving zero plastic waste by 2030, prioritizing clean-up of contaminated sites in areas where Indigenous Peoples, racialized and low-income Canadians live and introducing new legislation to protect animals in captivity.
Trudeau asked Guilbeault you return to him with a proposed approach for the delivery of his mandate commitments, including priorities for early implementation.
“Furthermore, to ensure we are accountable for our work, I will be asking you to publicly report to me, and all Canadians, on your progress toward these commitments on a regular basis,” the prime minister concluded.
The new federal tourism minister, Randy Boissonnault, has also been handed a mandate letter from the prime minister.
Trudeau told Boissonnault his top priority is to make sure that Canada remains a tourist destination of choice, as he leads the charge on tourism recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Your immediate priority is to advance recovery measures for the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to develop a national trails tourism strategy,” he said in his Dec. 16 letter.
Specifically, Trudeau tasked Boissonnault with advancing recovery measures such as the tourism relief fund to help local tourism businesses recover from the pandemic and position themselves for future growth.
The new minister must also examine ways to finance projects and support rural and urban communities across Canada as they develop destinations and create and enhance tourism products, facilities and experiences.