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We’re rooting for Glen Murray, the new Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

On June 24, 2014, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne renamed the Ministry of Environment as the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.  It’s about time.  According to the Office of the Premier, the purpose of this expanded title is to “work with other ministers and ministries to coordinate the province’s response to climate change,” on top of the MOE’s traditional focus on the pollution of air, land and water.  It is the first time that climate change “has been an explicit part of a ministry title”. Hopefully, the new title will signal both commitment and resources to tackle this supreme issue of our generation, as well as fair and competent management of the MOE’s many other responsibilities.

To head the effort, Wynne replaced former Minister of Environment Jim Bradley (who became a minister without a portfolio) with the highly respected and very well qualified Glen Murray, the former Minister of Transportation.   As we noted previously, Minister Murray was the first car-free Transportation Minister since 1912, and he introduced proposed amendments to the Highway Traffic Act that would have improved pedestrian and cyclist safety.  With “construction season” on the roads in full force, gridlock has once again claimed Ontario’s highways and other main thoroughfares, especially in the GTA.  Who better to throw punches at these issues in the name of climate change than a car-free former Transportation Minister?

Is Minister Murray excited about his new role?  The CBC reported that Murray’s response to his new position was to announce that he will never run for election again.  They reported speculation that “Murray was upset with his shift in responsibilities, and announced his intentions to end his career as an elected official in response to taking over the environment file.”

That’s not how we read Minister Murray’s twitter posts.  On June 25, the day after the announcement of his new post, he tweeted: “Today it sunk in the last election was my last.  Promised that if I couldn’t make a difference in 8 or 10 yrs I couldn’t make difference.”  We read that as holding himself to account, not a complaint or a pout. In response to questions, Murray clarified:

“Minister of Environment in Ontario is the best political position I have ever had the privilege to hold.”

Of course he was “NOT demoted” (emphasis in original) but, rather, Premier Wynne “put me in a position where I can fight to ensure we can survive climate change.”  And a few minutes later, he tweeted again, “I have never been more excited or optimistic in my life.  The next 4 yrs of @kathleen_Wynne gov’t will be historic.”

We almost always cheer elected officials who are still determined to make a difference, soon, on a major challenge. The Ontario Liberals have done a lot, simply by phasing-out coal-fired electricity generation (the largest single initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a government in North America to date). But there is so much more to do. We need a leader on this issue who will keep that momentum going and take the challenge personally.  We are rooting for you, Minister Murray.

Jennifer Kalnins Temple and Dianne Saxe

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