Jonathan Wilkinson, From Jonathan Wilkinson web page.

Canada has a lot of natural resources. We’ve got lumber, coal, nickel, gold, oil, copper, natural gas, helium, uranium, helium, and maybe even some lithium and rare earth elements. We’ve got fish and grain, too, but they get their own ministries. No matter, we have a lot of resources, as we should, given we have half a continent. But you wouldn’t know it, from reading the marching orders Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his new minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, on Dec. 16.

His “mandate letter,” as it’s called, was almost entirely focused on climate change. While a substantial chunk of the letter was boilerplate – be professional and respectful with journalists, as an example – the real orders were in point form. And of the 29 points and subpoints, all but four referenced climate change, climate resilience, clean energy, decarbonize, zero emissions, or something along those lines. Even when bringing in gender, “clean energy” is referenced, to wit: “Increase inclusion in the clean energy workforce by creating more opportunities for women, LGBTQ2 and other under-represented people in the energy sector.”

As you’ll see at the end, not only does Trudeau still treat Wilkinson as Environment and Climate Change Minister, even Wilkinson thinks so, too.   

In the midst of the boilerplate, Trudeau wrote, “The science is clear. Canadians have been clear. We must not only continue taking real climate action, we must also move faster and go further. As Canadians are increasingly experiencing across the country, climate change is an existential threat. Building a cleaner, greener future will require a sustained and collaborative effort from all of us. As Minister, I expect you to seek opportunities within your portfolio to support our whole-of-government effort to reduce emissions, create clean jobs and address the climate-related challenges communities are already facing.”

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There’s more boilerplate about residential schools (I’m not sure what they have to do with energy and resources) and “Gender-Based Analysis Plus,” and then you get to the heart of the letter, which you can read below. I am including it all, because I think it’s important people really read what Trudeau wants from the energy sector. He wants it to go away

Here’s those 29 points, as written by Prime Minister Trudeau:

As Minister of Natural Resources, you will prioritize moving forward with legislation and comprehensive action to achieve a Just Transition, ensuring support for communities to create more economic opportunities for workers and families into the future and in all regions of the country. You will work with partners to develop and implement strategies to decarbonize regional electricity systems, grow the market for clean fuels and transform Canada’s building stock for the climate era. You will likewise move early to launch a Critical Minerals Strategy, ensuring that Canada’s natural resources are developed sustainably, competitively and inclusively.

To realize these objectives, I ask that you achieve results for Canadians by delivering the following commitments.

  • In support of Canada’s efforts to achieve a 100 per cent net-zero electricity system by 2035, with the support of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, advance near-term consultations with provinces, territories and Indigenous communities to develop and implement strategies to decarbonize electricity systems. In support of this work, you will:
    • Establish a Pan-Canadian Grid Council to promote infrastructure investments, smart grids, grid integration and electricity sector innovation;
    • Work with Indigenous partners and communities to support the transformation from diesel-fueled power to clean, renewable and reliable energy by 2030; and
    • Work to connect regions with carbon intensive electricity systems to more clean power by supporting transmission lines and the integration of renewables and clean fuels.
  • Support efforts by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to cap oil and gas sector emissions at current levels and ensure that the sector makes an ambitious and achievable contribution to meeting the country’s 2030 climate goals. This effort will take into account the advice of the Net-Zero Advisory Body and others, including provinces and territories, Indigenous partners, industry and civil society, and require the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions at a pace and scale needed to align with the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050, with five-year targets to stay on track.
  • Support the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Minister of Environment and Climate Change to accelerate our G20 commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from 2025 to 2023, and develop a plan to phase out public financing of the fossil fuel sector, including by federal Crown corporations.
  • To support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a low carbon economy:
    • Work with the Minister of Labour in moving forward with legislation and comprehensive action to achieve a Just Transition. This work will be guided by consultations with workers, unions, Indigenous Peoples, employers, communities and provinces and territories. You will be supported by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and Ministers responsible for Regional Development Agencies;
    • Continue to deliver on investments to train workers and create opportunities for green jobs; and
    • Increase inclusion in the clean energy workforce by creating more opportunities for women, LGBTQ2 and other under-represented people in the energy sector.
  • Support the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in the implementation of the Net Zero Accelerator Initiative, with emphasis on ensuring that investments drive industrial transition and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a scale consistent with achieving Canada’s climate goals and meaningfully transform Canadian industry to lead and compete in a net-zero emissions future.
  • Support the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act across government.
  • Work with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry to establish a global centre for excellence on methane detection and elimination.
  • Work with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry to develop and launch a Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy to supply the green and digitized economy and improve critical minerals supply chain resiliency in collaboration with key trading partners, positioning Canada as the leading mining nation.
  • Work with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry to develop a sustainable battery innovation and industrial ecosystem in Canada, including to establish Canada as a global leader in battery manufacturing, recycling and reuse. In support of these efforts, you will work with stakeholders to identify new strategic priorities, including future battery types, ways to optimize batteries for cold weather performance and long-duration storage, and applications in heavy-duty transportation, and launch a Canada-U.S. Battery Alliance for stakeholders in both countries to identify shared priorities and create environmental requirement
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  • Work with the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to introduce a new Buy Clean Strategy to support and prioritize the use of made-in-Canada low-carbon products in Canadian infrastructure projects.
  • Reduce pollution from transportation by adding 50,000 new electric vehicle chargers and hydrogen stations to Canada’s network and supporting the installation of charging stations in existing buildings, and by making investments to retrofit large trucks currently on the road, and supporting the production, distribution and use of clean fuels, including low or zero carbon hydrogen.
  • Work with provinces and territories, communities and Indigenous Peoples to develop and implement a National Net-Zero Emissions Building Strategy to achieve net-zero emissions from buildings by 2050, with interim milestones, that include accelerating net-zero emissions new builds and deep retrofits of existing buildings through codes and incentives, requiring EnerGuide labeling of homes at the time of sale, transitioning away from fossil-fuel home heating systems, and launching a community level net-zero emissions homes initiative.
  • Work with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry on the development of model building codes, including publishing a net-zero emissions building code and model retrofit code by the end of 2024 that align with national climate objectives and provide a standard for climate-resilient buildings. You will also work to amend the National Building Code of Canada to specify firefighter and first responder safety as a core objective. To ensure effective implementation of these performance standards, work with partners to develop strategies around incentives, training programs and pilot initiatives.
  • Help Canadians improve the energy efficiency and resiliency of their homes by providing grants of up to $5,000 for home retrofits through the Canada Greener Homes Grants Program and creating a Climate Adaptation Home Rating Program as a companion to the EnerGuide home energy audits to protect homeowners from the impacts of climate change.
  • Building off successful investments in the Green Construction through Wood and Investments in Forest Industry Transformation programs, launch a Low-Carbon Building Materials Innovation Hub.
  • Continue to implement the Natural Climate Solutions Fund and deliver on the plan to plant 2 billion trees across the country over 10 years as a nature-based solution to help reverse nature loss and fight climate change.
  • Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to help protect old growth forests, notably in British Columbia, by advancing a nature agreement with B.C., establishing a $50 million B.C. Old Growth Nature Fund, and ensuring First Nations and Métis, local communities and workers are partners in shaping the path forward on nature protection.
  • Support the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness to develop a climate data strategy to ensure that the private sector and communities have access to data to inform planning and infrastructure investments.
  • Protect homes and communities from the impacts of climate change by completing work with provinces and territories to develop flood maps for higher-risk areas, advancing work to complete flood mapping nation-wide, supporting the development of a portal to provide centralized access to information on flood risks, and expanding the eligibility requirements of the Canada Greener Home Grants to include more climate resilience measures.
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  • Support the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities to build on the foundation of the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund and continue seeking opportunities to scale the construction of climate-resilient infrastructure across Canada, with a particular emphasis on communities most at risk.
  • Work with the Minister of Public Safety and the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness to make our communities safe and increase forest resilience to wildfire, including training 1,000 new community-based firefighters, investing in equipment and other measures to reduce risks from wildfire and supporting fire management by Indigenous communities.
  • Work with the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness to take steps to establish an international centre of excellence in Canada focused on firefighter training and coordination and wildfire management, and to engage with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
  • Continue to develop a new national benefits-sharing framework to ensure that First Nations and Métis Nation communities directly benefit from major resource projects in their territories, and that Inuit communities benefit from major resource projects in Inuit Nunangat.

 

And there you have it, folks. We already have a Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Now, it appears our Minister of Natural Resources is also a Minister of Climate Change, too.

Actually, that’s not really accurate. Wilkinson was the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. And his website still thinks that he is. And apparently, so does he. After all, on Nov. 17, he wrote a column called “Environment and Natural Resources: Two sides of the same coin.”

His website has links to the Environment and Climate Change Minister’s office, yet not that of the Natural Resources Minister’s office, despite having a column clearly acknowledging his new role for a month now.   

There’s going to be a lot I’ll be writing about over the next year that will come from this. Things like the practicality of installing electric chargers everywhere – and 50,000 won’t cut it for a nation with tens of millions of vehicles. The actual world has concepts “reality,” that may trip up many of these plans. You would have thought, with all the electrification this government will be pushing, Trudeau might have wanted to develop more copper, lithium, and rare-earth elements. None of those words show up in the letter. But “Gender-based Analysis Plus” does.   

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca. Pipeline Online aims to post two pieces relevant to Saskatchewan’s energy sector, Monday to Friday.

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