North Vancouver Liberal MP Jonathan Wilkinson will return to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, albeit in a different role.
Wilkinson was sworn in as Canada’s new natural resources minister at a ceremony in Ottawa on Tuesday (Oct. 26).
Most recently, Wilkinson had been Canada’s minister for environment and climate change, a role he’d held since 2019. He received his first cabinet appointment in 2018 when he was named minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
“I loved my time and Environment and Climate Change Canada,” Wilkinson said following his new appointment. “I was very fortunate to get a chance to do that for two years. For somebody who got into politics to address the climate issue, I don't think you can ask for anything more.”
But Wilkinson said he sees the change as a lateral move as opposed to a demotion. As natural resources minister, Wilkinson will be charged with developing Canada’s resources “sustainably, competitively and inclusively.”
“It's going to continue to involve a lot of work on climate, but it's much more of an economic portfolio,” he said.
Critics have seized the appointment. Environmental group Dogwood congratulated Wilkinson on Twitter, saying natural resources “was where he belonged this whole time.”
“Now he can really put his shoulder behind the #TransMountain pipeline!” the group tweeted.
But Wilkinson said the criticism isn’t entirely fair as much of his new responsibility will be still be tackling carbon emissions. In his new portfolio, Wilkinson said he will oversee new infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles, improving building efficiency, and he said, making sure the oil and gas business reduces their own emissions.
“What I would say to environmentalists and the business community and to workers who will need to move through this transition is that I am there to ensure that we are making progress on emissions reduction, but doing so in a manner that is thoughtful, that actually looks for the economic opportunities that we can create through such a transition," he said. "I think that the environmental community should be quite happy. They now have both an environment minister in environment, and an environment minister the NRCAN.”
From his time as environment minister, Wilkinson he was especially proud of the Canada’s updated climate plan announced last December, which raised Canada’s carbon reduction goals.
“It put Canada on track to do exceed its climate targets,” he said. “And we now have a plan to meet those.”
Wilkinson also recently published a letter to young Canadians leading up to the COP26 UN Climate Change conderence in which assures them that Canada is the country is doing what it must.
“Lots of times, people think that we're not making progress, or you can’t actually make progress in the political system and I would say I think we've accomplished an enormous amount in the last few years,” he said.
Neither Burnaby North-Seymour Liberal MP Terry Beech nor West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP Patrick Weiler were included in the new cabinet, although Trudeau has not yet named who his parliamentary secretaries will be.
"Canadians need a strong and diverse cabinet to deliver on their priorities and keep Canada moving forward for everyone,” Trudeau said in a release. “This team will finish the fight against COVID–19, deliver on $10-a-day childcare, help Canadians find a home of their own, tackle the climate crisis, and continue to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”