A new ministerial department on Broadway tasked with managing environmental and climate stewardship will be led by Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard.
Guillemard was appointed Minister of Conservation and Climate on Oct. 23 in a cabinet shuffle by Premier Brian Pallister.
"It’s an incredible honour to be asked to serve in cabinet, and there’s certainly quite a lot to learn, so there’s a mixture of emotions and certainly one of them is excitement to be working on this particular portfolio," Guillemard said.
"I think I’ve always had an affinity for learning about environmental projects and what I can contribute as an individual to enhancing the environment around me," she added. "I think that was highlighted in some of the projects I worked on when I was chair of the parent council at St. Avila school, as well as chairing the water stewardship coalition in St. Norbert."
According to the province, the new department will oversee "responsible growth, including the delivery of the made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, and Efficiency Manitoba," the new Crown corporation that has replaced the Power Smart program.
"I think that there’s a need for better communication on our green plan, so we have a lot more contributors to implementing it. I know that I’ve had some success with communicating very well with different stakeholders and working well on a team," Guillemard said.
According to the province, Efficiency Manitoba is mandated to meet savings targets in both electrical energy and natural gas, at 1.5 per cent and .75 per cent respectively, year-after-year, for 15 years. The corporation will present its first three-year plan to the Public Utilities Board for review on Nov. 1, and Efficiency Manitoba is expected to begin delivering its own programs in spring 2020.
The conservation and climate portfolio replaces the sustainable development department, led by Riel MLA Rochelle Squires, who has moved into the municipal relations file.
Guillemard said the creation of a department with climate in the title is a response to what MLAs heard while campaigning at the end of the summer.
"It aligns more with some of the goals that we clearly heard the citizens during the campaign asking us to achieve," Guillemard said. "This is one of them. This climate discussion has been ongoing for a number of years and will continue well into the future and that’s expected and important.
"I think because of how big this discussion, even during the federal election, has been it’s important for us to put an emphasis and focus on tangible actions each of us can take.
"It’s going to be a big portfolio and an important portfolio to reach our goals in conjunction with our partners and stakeholders."
Ministers will receive mandate letters at the start of the next legislative session which will spell out the expectations of each department in more detail, but Guillemard said it’s important to have realistic goals and not try to "fix everything all at once."
"But making sure we carve off a small enough chunk that we can actually achieve them," she said. "Ultimately we’d all love to be on a planet that isn’t hurting, but to get there we have to start one small step at a time."
Danielle Da Silva