Catherine McKenna won’t be seeking re-election, plans to devote efforts to fighting climate change

Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna has decided not to seek re-election.

Her surprise decision opens up some prime political real estate that could become a launching pad for former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney should he decide to run for the Liberals in the next election.

McKenna has held Ottawa Centre, a riding that encompasses Parliament Hill, since 2015, when she wrestled it away from the New Democrats.

Carney has not committed to running but promised in April, during his political debut at the Liberal Party’s virtual convention, to do whatever he can to support the party.

McKenna is to hold a news conference on Monday to announce her decision to stand down in the next election, but an advance copy of her remarks was obtained Sunday by The Canadian Press.

“When I got into politics now eight years ago, I made two simple promises to myself: always fight for what I believe in and leave when I had done what I got into politics to do,” the speech reads.

McKenna, shown at a public transit garage in Ottawa on March 4, informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of her decision to retire on Sunday. She has offered to continue serving as infrastructure minister until a federal election is called. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

She says she wants to spend more time with her three children and devote her professional energies to the fight against climate change.

“Like many Canadians, living through COVID-19 over a very long year made me step back and reflect on what matters to me most. And it’s two things: my kids and climate change.”

McKenna informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of her decision on Sunday. She has offered to continue serving as infrastructure minister until a federal election is called.

All parties profess not to want to head to the polls during the pandemic, but all are feverishly gearing up for one as Trudeau increasingly seems to be setting the stage for pulling the plug on his minority government this summer.

Introduced carbon price as environment minister

As Trudeau’s environment minister during his first mandate, McKenna stick-handled the introduction of the Liberal government’s national climate-change action plan, which included imposing a price on carbon emissions.

The carbon price — or “tax,” as it is called by the Conservatives — was bitterly opposed by provincial governments in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, who challenged its constitutionality in court. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in March that it is constitutional.

McKenna became a lightning rod for opposition to the climate plan, enduring misogynistic slurs and threats on social media and in graffiti scrawled on her constituency office. Police were called in to investigate last summer after someone yelled obscenities at one of McKenna’s staffers, video of which was posted to social media.

In the text of her remarks for Monday’s announcement, McKenna specifically addresses young girls who are thinking about whether politics is for them.

“Do it. And when you do it, don’t be afraid to run like a girl. I’ll be there cheering you on,” she says.

“Get into politics to do something, never to be something. There’s a lot to dislike about this business, but you can make a bigger difference in the lives of more people than you can anywhere else.”

Trudeau moved McKenna to the infrastructure post following the 2019 election. The move, among other things, put her in charge of funding green projects aimed at helping Canada meet its emissions reduction targets.

But it seems McKenna has missed being at the heart of the climate-change fight.

“This is a critical year for climate action in the most important decade that will decide whether we can save the only planet we have,” she says in explaining her decision not to seek re-election.

“I want to spend my working hours helping to make sure that we do.”

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