Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, faced a small but audible group of protesters during her stop at Saanich Wednesday. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, faced a small but audible group of protesters during her stop at Saanich Wednesday. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Federal environment minister faces protesters in B.C.

Catherine McKenna defended her government’s environmental record during a funding announcement in Victoria

Canada’s federal environment minister faced a small but audible group of protesters, who also peppered her with questions about her government’s record on climate change.

Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, encountered the protesters Wednesday morning in Saanich as she and provincial counterpart George Heyman announced a combined $14.65 million funding towards the purchase of 7,900 hectares in southeastern British Columbia to complete a conservation area for species-at-risk including Grizzly bears.

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McKenna, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have become lightening rods for environmentalists, who have accused the federal Liberals of betrayal over their decision to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The protesters, who mingled themselves amongst the audience at the Swan Lake and Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, held up hand-crafted signs that read ‘Stop Peddling Pipelines’ as she was speaking. They also chanted ‘Money won’t matter on a dead planet’ during parts of her speech and accused the minister of hypocrisy.

Several of them also asked her questions during the media session, with one asking how the federal government could justify spending $7 million on conservation efforts today, while spending billions on expanding fossil fuel projects like the Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

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McKenna said Canada is pursuing an ambitious clean energy program with the proviso that Canada’s transition towards a clean energy future will not happen overnight in blaming the Conservatives for a decade of inaction on climate change.

“We have a climate plan that includes putting a price on pollution,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are many Conservative politicians, who think it should be free to pollute. We are phasing out coal. At the same time, we are working with communities and workers to ensure that they have a future, that they have jobs. We are making historic investments in transportation, and yes, we are going to continue to invest in nature.”

McKenna acknowledged that some voices would like the government to be more ambitious. “And then there are other people who want us to have no action at all. My commitment is to try to bring people together.”

Canadians will continue to drive cars and Canada will continue to export oil for a while, she said, adding that the cost of living is an issue in many areas of the country, including British Columbia.

At the same time, the federal government will continue to work with the provinces to protect the environment and invest in green technology, she said.

“We can do both,” she said.


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wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com