My thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for entrusting me with this important role. As someone who entered politics largely as a result of the climate issue, I am honoured to be asked to take on these important challenges as Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
As some may know, I spent 15 years prior to entering politics as a CEO and a senior executive in Canada’s clean technology sector – working, in large measure, on climate related issues. I very much look forward to building on the great work done at ECCC by my colleague and friend Catherine McKenna.
It has been a great honour to serve as Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. During the past four years our government has worked tirelessly to protect our oceans, grow the economy and create good middle class jobs in our coastal communities.
We protected ~14% of Canada’s ocean space – up from just 1% in 2015. We banned oil and gas activities, mining, dumping and bottom trawling in Canadian Marine Protected Areas. Through the modernization of the Fisheries Act, we restored lost protections to fish and fish habitat, and enshrined new safeguards and protections into law. We hired almost 300 new science staff, and put in place the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan – the largest investment in our country’s history to make our oceans cleaner, safer and healthier.
We made significant investments in the fish and seafood sector by establishing the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, and the Quebec Fisheries Fund. Both of these programs have been modeled off of the highly successful Atlantic Fisheries Fund. This has allowed for direct partnership with communities, industry and Indigenous led initiatives that will support the sustainable management of our fisheries.
After decades of neglect, we announced a full renewal of the aging Canadian Coast Guard fleet. Further, In BC and elsewhere we have been working with Coastal First Nations to develop rights and reconciliation agreements for the sustainable management of area fisheries and marine resources.
Working with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we have made significant progress on marine protection, sustainability and economic opportunity.
It has been an enormous pleasure to work with Parliamentary Secretary, Sean Casey and with professional staff of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Canadians should be very, very proud of our public servants and the tireless work that they do on behalf of our great country.
I congratulate and welcome the incoming Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan. I wish you all the best as you deliver on these important commitments.
As I reflect on my new portfolio, I recognize there are some very difficult and very significant issues we must address. The vast majority of Canadians said clearly during the recent election campaign that they want their government to aggressively address the climate crisis.
However, we also know that there are folks in some regions – Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular – who have questions and concerns regarding how we address this challenge and about the nature and timing of an energy transition.
These are all matters that must be squarely addressed.
I grew up in Saskatoon. I studied at the University of Saskatchewan. I worked for the former Premier of Saskatchewan as a constitutional negotiator and later as a federal-provincial relations specialist.
While I have now lived in North Vancouver for 20 years, where my wife and I have raised our two daughters, I continue to feel very close to the concerns and aspirations of those who live in the prairie provinces. As Minister of Environment and Climate Change I certainly intend to reach out broadly to seek to find pathways that will enable success on the fight against climate change but in a manner that will also ensure future prosperity for all regions of this country.
The reality is that we – as Canadians and as citizens of a global community – are at a pivotal juncture. We must take bold action to address the fundamentally important challenge of climate change. However, we also must ensure we do so in a manner that will enable continued economic prosperity for all Canadians.
As your Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I look forward to working to deliver on these issues. Doing this will not be simple – but this task is a fundamentally important one that we must tackle together. I look forward to working with industry, environmental groups, Indigenous communities and all levels of government to advance our shared interests of building an environmentally and economically sustainable country.
Finally, I want to say a very heartfelt thank you to the citizens of North Vancouver for putting your trust in me once again to represent our community’s interests in Ottawa and to play a role in building a more sustainable Canada..
– Jonathan Wilkinson