Nunavut MP defends her government’s throne speech
Leona Aglukkaq in Whitehorse Oct. 21 for Arctic Council officials meeting
Although there was no mention of climate change in the Conservative government’s throne speech Oct. 16, Leona Aglukkaq, the Nunavut MP, federal environment minister and minister responsible for the Arctic Council, acknowledged that “the science is very clear” that global warming is occurring.
In a brief interview from Ottawa Oct. 18, Aglukkaq emphasized statements she made in the House of Commons the day before, in response to questions from NDP MP Meagan Leslie, who questioned the minister’s knowledge and commitment to “taking immediate action” on greenhouse gas emissions.
“I am a strong advocate on taking actions to address climate change,” she told Nunatsiaq News. “Our government has taken action around – sector by sector, a regulatory approach.”
The minister highlighted the government’s “regulatory approach” as an alternative to proposals by the opposition NDP, who “want to introduce a $20 billion carbon tax.”
“The two biggest areas that we’ve moved on in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are regulations on the transportation industry, and the next was coal-fired electricity,” she said.
Delivered by Governor General David Johnston, the throne speech states the government will “build on its record as the first government to achieve an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by working with provinces to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sectors while ensuring Canadian companies remain competitive.”
“While we’re doing that, our economy continues to grow, without having to increase taxes,” Aglukkaq said Oct. 18.
On the international stage, the minister pointed to a “black carbon” reduction initiative Canada began in September, as part of the country’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
“These are pollutants that affect the North,” she said. “We’re moving on that in partnership with other jurisdictions.”
Agglukaq has headed to the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse for the first executive meeting of the Arctic Council’s senior Arctic officials, a body made up of non-elected officials from the council’s eight member states that guides the organization’s activities between ministerial meetings.
On the morning of Oct. 21, she was scheduled to make remarks at the opening of the meeting, which wraps up Oct. 23,
Canada will chair the Arctic Council for the period between 2013 and 2015. The throne speech made no mention of the chairmanship.
Although there is no oil and gas extraction in Nunavut, the prospect of such an industry worries people in the Baffin region, who say they oppose oil and gas exploration until they know more about possible safety hazards and effects on marine wildlife.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is intervening with the National Energy Board of Canada to answer those questions.
“I think it would be great to have that discussion,” Aglukkaq said. “The National Energy Board has been traveling across the North, and they have been doing a number of consultations.
“There are processes in place where northerners will have an opportunity to answer those questions,” she said. “And we’re open to that, and the National Energy Board has been open to meeting with the QIA.”
The throne speech suggested improvement to “high-speed broadband networks for rural Canadians.”
Asked if this means Nunavummiut can expect faster fibre-optic connections for Internet anytime soon, Aglukkaq said “there are always opportunities, yes, absolutely.”
“The other point I’ll make is that in the 2013 budget we made a number of investments to improve infrastructure,” she said. “That budget is still being rolled out, and a number of areas support investments of that nature.”