Story at a glance
- Former Greenpeace activist Steven Guilbeault has been named Canada’s newest environment and climate minister.
- Guilbeault is known for his radical climate activism, and in 2001 hung a banner from Toronto’s CN Tower calling Canada and the U.S. “climate killers.”
- Alberta’s premier said the appointment was disappointing to the region, whose economy relies on oil and gas production.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday tapped former Greenpeace activist Steven Guilbeault as the nation’s newest environment and climate minister as part of a post-election government overhaul, angering some officials in Canada’s oil-rich west.
Guilbeault, nicknamed the “Green Jesus of Montreal” for his radical environmentalism, worked in environmental advocacy for more than a decade before entering politics. While still at Greenpeace, Guilbeault scaled Toronto’s CN Tower to hang a banner denouncing Canada and then-President George W. Bush as “climate killers.”
The appointment represents a shift from Trudeau’s earlier stance on climate action, and the prime minister in 2015 publicly backed the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline while on the campaign trail.
“Putting an activist into a role like this . . . really does signal that the Trudeau government is intensifying its commitment to action on climate change and energy transition,” Lisa Young, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, told the Washington Post on Tuesday. Trudeau last month also promised to cut Canada’s oil sector emissions despite being the world’s fourth-largest oil and gas producer.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday said Guilbeault’s appointment was concerning and sent a “very problematic” message to the province, the country’s largest producer of oil and gas.
“I certainly hope that the new minister, Minister Guilbeault, will quickly demonstrate to Alberta and other resource producing provinces a desire to work together constructively on practical solutions that don’t end up killing hundreds of thousands of jobs, but his own personal background and track record on these issues suggest somebody who is more of an absolutist than a pragmatist,” he said during a news conference in Edmonton, the province’s capital. “I hope that I’m wrong about that.”
Trudeau’s government has also pledged net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but Canada is still expected to miss its 2020 target even with industrial activity curtailed by pandemic shutdowns, according to the Climate Action Tracker.
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