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New fisheries, environment and Indigenous ministers could have effect on North Island affairs

MP Rachel Blaney reflects on new Liberal cabinet
Minister Joyce Murray is the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

With Tuesday’s announcement of the new federal cabinet comes changes that will affect key issues in the North Island-Powell River riding.

While North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is still waiting for her critic roles to come from NDP leadership, she did note some big changes in the ministry positions that will have at least some effect on things in the region.

RELATED: Trudeau unveils larger cabinet with nine new faces

Most notably is the change of minister for Fisheries and Oceans, going from Bernadette Jordan, who did not win re-election this year, to west coast-based Joyce Murray.

“I think that’s a good indicator of having somebody who’s… from our coast,” Blaney said. “I have a lot of concerns, of course she comes from Vancouver Quadra… so I’m not sure she fully understands the real life experiences that rural and remote communities have in terms of fisheries… I’ll be looking forward to having those conversations about how engagement is going to work and how she’s going to move forward to build those bridges that desperately need to be built.”

Murray has experience in provincial politics and was the BC Liberals’ minister of Water, Land and Air Protection from 2001 to 2004.

As the last parliamentary session was ending, Canada was becoming aware of the impact of residential schools. The federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized its commitment to reconciliation, but Blaney said Canadians are looking for more from the Liberal government, and she hopes a new face in the Indigenous Services ministry will help.

“People are very concerned about what the actual commitment is on the government. I think these two ministers, (Patty) Hadju and (new Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc) Miller will have a lot of work to do.”

Hadju is the new minister of Indigenous Services. One of her first decisions will be whether or not to continue appealing a court ruling that the government compensate First Nations children for under funding the on-reserve child welfare program.

“I think that decision is going to set a tone between Indigenous communities across Canada and the federal government,” Blaney said. “A lot of non-Indigenous Canadians are really passionate about this issue. We’re seeing a transition where the realities of Indigenous people are becoming an every day concern, not only for Indigenous communities but for everyday Canadians. We want to see that transition happen.”

With the environment such a hot topic during the election, Trudeau’s picks for the environmental files are equally notable. Minister Jonathan Wilkinson will be taking over the resources ministry from Seamus O’Reagan, and the new Minister of the Environment will be former Greenpeace activist Steven Guilbeault. Blaney hopes that the two ministers can help ensure the transition to a greener economy can include rural and remote communities.

“It’s a time of huge change, and trying to find the right balance is going to be a lot of work for every level of government and every community,” she said. “We need to get to those targets. Part of that is creating… systems that will (keep) our emissions down. If the government is wise, they’re going to invest some money in this so we can move forward.”

RELATED: Trudeau to unveil new cabinet Oct. 26, Parliament to return Nov. 22

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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