Jim Prentice, Premier-designate for the Province of Alberta, was federal Minister of the Environment from October 2008 to November 2010. He left Cabinet, and his seat in the House of Commons, in 2010 and was quoted in the press as saying that “I am closing the door on political life.” He was not a particularly auspicious environment minister and took a lot of flack for the Federal Government’s inaction on climate change but many observers considered that he was severely constrained by Prime Minister Harper.
In February of this year Prentice told a Conservative conference in Ottawa “Our position as a country will be amongst the most precarious since we are an industry democracy, with a solid record of environment achievement — but also with a developing economy that relies heavily on resource extraction.” He is quoted by CBC as saying “Focusing on environmental policy isn’t exclusively a question of morality. Increasingly, it’s an economic imperative.” “As conservatives we can’t be in the position of providing our political rivals with the opportunity to portray us as out of touch with the values of Canadians and the prevailing sentiment of the global community.”
During his term as Environment Minister, he was frequently asked questions in the House of Commons. His responses, though sometimes attacking the opposition, included:
- The policy of the government is to strike an appropriate balance between the environment on the one hand and the economy on the other.
- Climate change continues to be a major priority for Canadians.
- Canadians want our country to lead the way in the fight against climate change, and renewable energy sources are key to such efforts.
- Canada is committed to going to Copenhagen with the targets that we have announced of minus 20% by 2020 from a 2006 base.
- We have to develop a sustainable economy.
- The government is working forward on the proposition of a continental cap and trade system. Our plan will include hard caps for all major emitters, if that is the case.
- Canada is a huge producer of energy, including clean gas. One of our biggest challenges is to find the cleanest way possible to produce energy. That is the case for the oil sands. Our plan will include absolute targets for all major emitters. That is also the case for the oil sands. Our government is working on developing other technologies, for example, carbon capture and storage.
- The only abatement technology to actually reduce carbon emissions from, for example, coal-fired electricity plants is carbon capture and storage. . . . over 40% of the carbon in the atmosphere today actually came from burning coal. This is the only technology that holds the promise of reducing these emissions. Canada leads the world. We are spending more per capita on these investments than any other country. This has been acknowledged by the International Energy Agency and many other agencies.
- Mr. Speaker, I am tabling Canada’s first federal sustainable development strategy. [6 October 2010]