Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna was not a victim of PMO demotion in the cabinet shuffle held last Monday. But perhaps by any normal objective standard she should have been.
And McKenna’s treatment stands in marked contrast to that of former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who, in her long demotion letter last week, argued “there is very little, if anything, in my mandate letter we have not done or is not well under way to completing.”
Yet the very top bullet of McKenna’s mandate letter was to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with our international obligations,” a job at which, by objective standards, she is failing. An Environment Canada report released December 20 shows McKenna is now even further from reaching our international obligations than last year.
McKenna is supposed to be getting the Canadian economy on target to produce 517 megatons (or less) of carbon by 2030 — our United Nations obligation. But an Environment Canada report released last month not only projected Canada falling short of our 2030 obligation — it showed the gap widening, up from the 66 Mt shortfall projected in 2017 to a 79 Mt shortfall projected last month. We are going the wrong way.
McKenna’s failure may be her fault. Or perhaps not. Perhaps McKenna is failing to work effectively with her Ministry to find solutions. Perhaps she is failing to make the case at the Cabinet table. Or perhaps despite good Ministry work and strong cabinet presentations, the PMO has competing priorities. Perhaps as long as she keeps up appearances with inspiring tweets and soothing public words she can stick around — mandate letters about international obligations notwithstanding.
Politically, the problem is the Liberals’ usual cover-line for failure – “better than Harper!” — doesn’t work with climate change.
The Paris Accord targets are Harper’s targets. And when the climatic health of the plant is the issue, there’s no middle ground. Failure – big, medium or small – is still failure.
The result of McKenna’s failure is polarization — and not just on the climate change issue. Trudeau’s rushed approval of the Trans Mountain was shot down by the federal court of appeal due to a failure to properly consult and accommodate Indigenous people.
The Trudeau government’s climate change failure has fractured its internally inconsistent coalition. That fracturing is now playing out as people move to oppose Trudeau over both climate change and Indigenous title rights. Including, perhaps, at the cabinet table.