The minister of the environment used to be the loneliest person in the federal cabinet. He or she held a portfolio that had no natural allies and many natural enemies among the departments in Liberal, Progressive Conservative and Conservative cabinets.
Today, in the Justin Trudeau cabinet, the Environment Minister is surrounded by allies, and is charged by the Prime Minister with co-operating with them, whereas the Natural Resources Minister is the loneliest minister. The change from the past could not be more complete.
In the past, Environment was considered by definition to be a big-spending department. It was therefore checked, and sometimes checkmated, by spending watchdogs in the Finance Department and Treasury Board.
Natural Resources, whose mandate was to promote natural resources industries, provided a natural, structural foe of the Environment Department. So, too, were the Agriculture and Fisheries departments, whose client groups (farmers and fishermen) groaned at what they saw as excessive environmental regulations. Transport Canada occasionally cocked a skeptical eye at Environment’s intrusions into transportation decisions.
How the tables have turned. Consider, for example, the mandate letter Mr. Trudeau sent to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr. In the past, the natural resources minister’s job was to promote the development and shipping of Canada’s natural resources.
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