Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Politics Insider delivers premium analysis and access to Canada's policymakers and politicians. Visit the Politics Insider homepage for insight available only to subscribers.

Leona Aglukkaq was born and raised in the remote Inuit community of Gjoa Haven, where Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen spent a winter after becoming trapped in ice during a voyage through the Northwest Passage more than 100 years ago.

As a northerner and chair of the multinational Arctic Council, Ms. Aglukkaq is keenly aware of the impact of climate change on the Far North – Mr. Amundsen's treacherous adventure a century ago would be easier today with the dramatic reduction in sea ice and lengthening of the navigation season.

Story continues below advertisement

And so her appointment as Canada's Environment Minister on Monday has raised some hopes that the Harper government may be prepared to show some leadership on climate change, where in the recent past it has moved with grudging reluctance – primarily pulled along in matching U.S. regulatory changes – even as Conservative MPs used the issue to batter political opponents.

Calling himself an inveterate optimist, Pembina Institute executive director Ed Whittingham said the former health minister will bring some clout to the portfolio that was lacking with Peter Kent, who was demoted to the back benches.

"A strong environment minister can push at the cabinet table for environmental priorities and a weak one is dominated by other ministers," Mr. Whittingham said. "Ms. Aglukkaq will bring a bit of heft to the portfolio."

But any change may well be more in the realm of style rather than substance, especially given that on key environmental issues – including long-awaited emissions regulations for the oil industry – it will be the Prime Minister's Office rather than the Environment Minister that will call the shots. In her nearly seven years as a Harper government health minister, Ms. Aglukkaq has shown no penchant for pursuing tough regulatory action or leading a national debate.

From the government's point of view, her appointment as the country's first aboriginal environment minister carries enormous communications upside, as Ottawa battles critics both outside the country and internally over its resource development agenda and specific proposals like the Keystone XL pipeline. It will likely be harder for lefty environmentalists to demonize a 46-year-old Inuit woman than a nearly-70-year-old, former broadcaster from Toronto – Mr. Kent – who has been generally ineffectual in carrying the government's climate message.

In that way, Ms. Aglukkaq complements Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who remains in his job despite – or more likely because of – his aggressive verbal combat with the government's environmentalist critics. She should have more credibility than either Mr. Kent or Mr Oliver when it comes to talking to First Nations leaders about the government's commitment to sustainable resource development.

The new environment minister has provided some indication of her approach as she took the reins of the Arctic Council, an eight-nation group that works to harmonize strategies for northern development.

Story continues below advertisement

In speeches, she has emphasized the need for "development for the people of the North" and has criticized anti-development activists who do not live there. She has embraced the Harper government view that climate change is opening the north for development, and the focus should be on managing that process rather than stopping development or seizing on the impacts to trumpet the need for emissions reductions.

Shawn McCarthy covers energy in the Ottawa bureau.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies