No 'secret agenda': New environment minister responds to Kenney, Notley concerns

Canada's new minister of the environment and climate change responded Wednesday to allegations out of Alberta that he is a "radical environmentalist" who may try to kill jobs in the oilpatch.

Steven Guilbeault, formerly a leader of Greenpeace Quebec and co-founder of Equiterre, was appointed to the position by prime minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday.

A day later, Guilbeault insisted he doesn't have a "secret agenda," saying most of the Liberal government's goals and policies are already known.

"We put a price on pollution, and we will continue to increase this price on pollution. We want more transit, we want more clean energy, we want more renewable energy, and we want less pollution," he told reporters.

Criticism of the appointment came from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and NDP Leader Rachel Notley, in a rare moment of agreement for the political rivals.

Kenney said he was worried Guilbeault would impose a "radical agenda that would lead to mass unemployment."

"I hope that he will send a signal that he is willing to work constructively and cooperatively with us, as partners, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy," Kenney said.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley agreed with Kenney, before quickly adding it's his government's job to sell Alberta's industry and environmental initiatives.

"I share some of the concerns about some of the historical positions taken by (Guilbeault) in the past, some of his anti-pipeline commentary, that is certainly troubling," she said.

Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon called Guilbeault a "radical environmentalist" and invited him to come out west so he can see Alberta oil and gas operations for himself.

GUILBEAULT OPEN TO MEETINGS IN ALBERTA

The new federal minister said he was open to travelling to Alberta and promised to work with "anyone in the country" to fight climate change.

Guilbeault said he doesn't plan to cap oil and gas production, but the Liberal government will cap the pollution it and other industries cause.

The new minister pointed out he publicly applauded Notley's 2016 climate plan that phased out coal, introduced a carbon tax and imposed a cap on carbon emissions in the oilsands.

"We have to reduce fossil fuel emissions, all emissions," he said.

"How different companies decide to go about doing that will need to be defined, but we're not trying to cap production."

Both Equiterre and Guilbeault were mentioned in Alberta's Allan inquiry that recently looked into allegations that environmentalists were accepting foreign money to fund campaigns aimed at impeding expansion of Alberta's oilsands.

The inquiry found Canadian environmental groups were exercising their democratic rights of free speech when they accepted foreign funding for campaigns opposing oilsands development, which the Alberta government has coloured wrong despite not being illegal.

Equiterre, the report's commissioner wrote, sought to "frustrate" oilsands development.

Guilbeault left Equiterre in 2018.

The new minister said one of his first assignments was to attend an upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Scotland.

Some environmental groups applauded Guilbeault's appointment.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski and The Canadian Press