BANFF – The new federal minister overseeing the Parks Canada portfolio has been given his mandate for national parks.
In a mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the new Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was charged with implementing a ban on harmful single-use plastic products and leading the government’s climate action plan.
“This includes exceeding current 2030 targets and developing a plan to achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050,” wrote Trudeau in the mandate letter released last week.
In terms of Parks Canada, there was no specific mention of protection of ecological integrity in national parks; however, Wilkinson was told to advance Parks Canada’s efforts to play a leadership role in natural and cultural heritage conservation and promotion.
The new minister, who replaced Catherine McKenna, who is now the minister of Infrastructure and Communities, was directed to work to make sure Canada’s national parks and national historic sites are a “source of national pride and enjoyment today and for future generations.”
Trudeau also directed Wilkinson to work with the federal agency to provide a bursary for children and their families who live in poverty or underprivileged circumstances that create significant barriers to visiting national or provincial parks.
The biggest part of Wilkinson’s job is leading the climate action plan, including government-wide efforts to develop a plan to set Canada on a path to achieve a net-zero emissions future by 2050.
“This includes setting legally-binding, five-year emissions-reduction milestones based on the advice of experts and consultations with Canadians,” Trudeau wrote, adding Wilkinson must work with minsters from other departments to position Canada as a global leader in clean technology.
In addition, Wilkinson was directed to team up with the natural resources minister and provinces and territories to complete all flood maps in Canada.
He was told to support the natural resources minister to have two billion trees planted incrementally over the next 10 years, as part of a broader commitment to nature-based climate solutions that also encompasses wetlands and urban forests.
“Work with the minister of natural resources to help cities expand and diversify their urban forests,” Trudeau wrote. “You will both also invest in protecting trees from infestations and, when ecologically appropriate, help rebuild our forests after a wildfire.”
Wilkinson’s mandate letter also spells out that he must work with the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to introduce a 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 of each by 2030.
“This plan should be grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives,” wrote Trudeau.
Among other responsibilities, Wilkinson has to continue to work to protect biodiversity and species at risk, while engaging others to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing Species at Risk Act.