Cabinet Shuffle: New Beginning or Business as Usual?
On Monday, Stephen Harper announced a cabinet shuffle that ended Peter Kent’s term as Environment Minister, and promoted Leona Aglukkaq to that portfolio, a former Health Minister and the first Inuk to be appointed to Cabinet.
On the surface, the shuffle may seem like progress on climate change and environment. By appointing an Aboriginal representative, it appears the government is seeking to win over First Nations on its controversial plans. However, the move is same old ideology with a few new faces. After all, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, the government’s 73-year-old pipeline cheerleader and front man on its so-called responsible resource development approach, remains in the post he has held since entering Parliament two years ago.
Through her role as Chair of the Arctic Council, Aglukkaq has already demonstrated her view that climate change in the north means jobs and that northern extraction of resources like oil and gas must trump environmental concerns. Inheriting unfinished oil and gas pollution rules as part of a sector-by-sector approach to reducing greenhouse gas pollution, Aglukkaq’s first major announcement as Minister will likely be the long-awaited regulations on Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
The disaster has caused an overwhelming amount of speculation on the impacts this event will have on energy infrastructure plans. The pipeline vs rail debate has been buzzing for quite some time now, but many were shocked to see just how quickly the debate ignited in the wake of such a tragic disaster.
While pro-pipeline advocates pounced on the opportunity to argue that pipelines are ‘safer’ than rail, the bottom line is that there no ‘safe’ way to transport oil. In the wake of this tragedy, Steven Guilbeault, Co-founder of Equiterre, wrote in response, that the focus at this time should be on the consequences of our dependence on oil. In the words, what’s the point of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when we’re heading towards an iceberg. The consequences of our addiction to oil should make us question whether it is morally acceptable for society to rely so heavily upon oil, or if it’s time to transition away from such a dangerous energy source. Whatever discussion ensues, the Lac-Mégantic tragedy has and will have a lasting impact on Canadian society.