Province drops "climate change" from environment ministry name

The words “and Climate Change” were added in 2014 under the former Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne.

It apparently marked the first time any government jurisdiction in North America elevated the issue and put a cabinet minister in charge of the environmental issue.

Writing in Alternatives Journal, “Canada’s Environmental Voice” that summer, editor Andrew Reeves said the “new moniker reflects Wynne’s appreciation of the growing challenges and impacts climate change and extreme weather are having in Ontario.”

He quoted Tim Gray of Environmental Defence, “We’re pleased to see Ontario become the first jurisdiction in North America to elevate the task of addressing it to the level of a cabinet position.”

The word “climate change” may have political implications, however.

The new Ford government, for example, is strenuously opposed to a federal plan to impose carbon taxes to fight greenhouse gases, considered the chief cause of global warming or climate change.

The Progressive Conservatives also scrapped the previous Wynne government’s cap-and-trade program.

The platform instead said the government will “protect and preserve” waterways and “support and enforce” air quality programs, improve enforcement including hiring more conservation officers and “increasing policing of major polluters,” establish an “emissions-reduction fund to invest in new technologies to reduce emissions,” and clean up communities by committing resources “to reduce garbage in our neighbourhoods and parks.”

Like the former Wynne government the federal government also added “climate change” to its environment ministry’s name after the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015.

Reflecting a key election campaign goal of fighting climate change, the government altered the name from Environment Canada to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

But, perhaps also in political move, late last month the feds dropped the moniker from one of its powererful cabinet committees.

The prime minister’s office said renaming the Environment, Climate Change and Energy cabinet committee to Environment and Clean Growth reflected the government's commitment to addressing climate change through growing the economy.

But it also came at a time when the government’s credibility on economic development has been tested following a federal appeal court ruling against the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, which it backed.

The original federal ministry name change in 2015 put the country’s energy industry on edge.

As reported by The Globe and Mail, “The portfolio's new name alone immediately worried executives in the oil patch, which has already been battered by low crude prices and is nervous about the Alberta NDP government's plans to crack down on carbon.”

Attempts to obtain comment from the Ford government for why it dropped “climate change” and added “conservation and parks” was unsuccessful.

Andrew Brander, spokesman for minister Rod Phillips (pictured), the change “happened a few (three) months ago….right after the election.”

He said a statement would be forthcoming, but despite two follow up calls, as well as an email and phone call to the ministry’s general media office, no explanation has been sent.

Update Sept. 24 - Ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler responded Sept. 21: "The ministry now has responsibility for conservation and parks in its broader role of protecting the environment."

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