Trudeau invites premiers and Elizabeth May to UN climate summit

Delegation could also include Tom Mulcair and interim leader of the Conservatives

Elizabeth May looks at her phone. (Gio Ciampini/Green Party)

Elizabeth May will be part of Justin Trudeau’s delegation to the UN summit on climate change next month. (Gio Ciampini/Green Party)

OTTAWA — Whatever else political opponents may say about Justin Trudeau’s approach to reducing carbon emissions, they’re not likely to curse his lack of inclusiveness.

The prime minister designate has already invited Green Leader Elizabeth May to be part of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations summit on climate change in Paris at the end of next month.

And he intends to invite NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and whomever is leading the Conservative party — be it Stephen Harper or an interim leader — as well, along with various non-governmental organizations and environmentalists, insiders say.

The premiers of all the provinces and territories that aren’t facing an election this fall have also agreed to accompany Trudeau.

Trudeau’s inclusive approach is in stark contrast to that adopted by Harper’s defeated Conservative government, which strictly limited participation in delegations to previous climate summits, entirely excluding opposition parties.

Indeed, back in 2011, before becoming Liberal leader, Trudeau was so incensed by the Harper government’s exclusionary policy that he called the environment minister at the time, Peter Kent, a “piece of s–t” in the House of Commons. His unparliamentary outburst, for which he apologized, was prompted by Kent needling the NDP’s environment critic for not having gone to the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, when the government had refused to accredit any opposition MPs.

At a 2013 UN climate conference in Warsaw, Poland, May ended up joining the Afghanistan delegation after the Harper government refused once again to include any opposition MPs in its delegation. Being part of Afghanistan’s delegation, rather than attending simply as an observer, allowed her to access to all the negotiations.

“I was an environmental refugee,” May said in an interview. “It’s absolutely outrageous what Harper did.”

May said Trudeau’s more inclusive approach is not surprising; he’s simply returning to the traditional practice of having delegations to international conferences represent Canada, not just the governing party.

Still, she said it bodes well for Canada playing a more constructive role in reaching a global agreement on reducing carbon emissions. She expects Trudeau to be “the polar opposite” of Harper, whom environmentalists have long denounced as a climate laggard.

May, who requested and received a 30-minute meeting with Trudeau this week even as he was immersed in transition plans for swearing in a new Liberal government on Nov. 4, said his willingness to engage with opposition parties is also encouraging, suggesting a less hyper-partisan style of governing.

The Paris summit is aimed at negotiating post 2020 targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, following the last major summit that resulted in 2009’s Copenhagen Accord. May said the draft text of an agreement is weak and, if Canada is to prod the conference to agree to something stronger, it will have to set a national target for emission reductions.

During the election campaign, Trudeau steered clear of setting a target, arguing that setting targets that are never met is pointless. He promised instead to work with premiers to develop a national “framework to combat climate change,” supporting the different measures provinces have already taken to put a price on carbon.

At a post-election news conference Tuesday, Trudeau said he’d already begun talking to premiers with the aim of establishing “a strong position” for the Paris summit “so that people know that Canada’s years of being a less-than-enthusiastic actor on the climate change file are behind us.”

Under Harper, Canada withdrew from the original Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. Canada is currently not close to meeting its subsequent Copenhagen commitment of slashing emissions by 17 per cent by 2020.

However, the Harper government did put forward an aggressive target in May for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.


Trudeau invites premiers and Elizabeth May to UN climate summit

  1. Other countries are looking forward to our return to the world stage…..and this huge contingent will make a spectacular entrance

  2. What a joy it is to read headlines like this. It’s like we finally have a Prime Minister worthy of the important work he has to do leading a country his citizens can again be proud of!

  3. Bravo! I am very much looking forward to what can be accomplished by this kind of positive, respectful and non-partisan approach to many issues facing our country and the world. I believe that cooperation, hard work and human intelligence can improve our lives more than hate, fear, greed and ideological blinders ever will. It seems our teachers were (hopefully) right. Can I put the Canadian flag back on my knapsack? I already have.

  4. “And he intends to invite NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and whomever is leading the Conservative party…”

    This is really sad. I would expect Canada’s national magazine to know the correct usage of “whoever” vs “whomever.” Use “whomever” only when it’s the object of both clauses. Here, “who” is leading the Cons party, not “whom.” Are we as Canadians really this illiterate?

    • I agree completely. This is a very simple point of grammar that is too little practised or even understood. Thanks for pointing it out, because now I don’t have to.

      • Aye, there’s none happier than the millions of us in Canada who believe in democracy and decency! Hooray :)

  5. I hope he invites David Suzuki as well! We are so privileged to now have a Prime Minister who understands you need to get help from the experts who care about Canada!

    • I agree. Anyone who can pack eight people into a forty-passenger diesel-powered bus and drive back and forth across the country telling people not to burn petroleum products could tell anyone anything with a straight face.

  6. Wonderful! We are witnessing a reversal of ten years of the worst governance imaginable. Onward and upward, Canada!

  7. You have to wonder why of all people for Trudeau to invite to this Summit that he would choose her?
    Since you all obviously can use a computer, pehaps you should check out a site called wikipedia before you speak on behalf of Elizabeth May & you my wonder as many do how she can be a leader of a Canadian Party due to being an American. She is a lawyer by trade & was with the NDP’s before becoming a Liberal before becoming part of the Green party. All her other Degree’s are “Honor” degree’s just like many others including Gordon Cambel & Harper. As for her knowledge on enviromental issues, you have to wonder then why she has been banned on speaking for the Suzuki foundation, Green peace & many others. She holds only one seat in 339 in Parliment so her vote on any issue is almost nil & void. Perhaps a better choice to send to this summit would be the person that Trudeau asigns as the Enviroment Minister & the only way for he to have that job would be to go back to being a liberal without a riding.

    • Pretty sure the environment minister would be going as a matter of course. May has a long history of working on environmental causes and would be an asset to any delegation – certainly more so than Suzuki … who as I recall burned his bridges with Trudeau during the election. As for your comments concerning degrees, I guess we can assume you didn’t get one for spelling.

    • May is Canadian and has been for decades, is even an Officer of the Order of Canada, unlike most other MPs and any other party leader. That she is an immigrant who has renounced US citizenship in no way disqualifies her from being a party leader.

      She has never been an NDP or Liberal member, although she did work in a non-partisan advisory position for Mulroney’s Minister of the Environment.

      As for being “banned on speaking for the Suzuki foundation, Green peace & many others” I have no idea what you mean. She is not a member of any of those organizations, so why would she speak on their behalf? And despite only holding one seat (of 338, not 339), she is highly respected by the rest of the House, to the extent that they voted her Parliamentarian of the Year. So her views hold a lot of weight with government and with thinking Canadians.

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