TORONTO — Ontario’s energy minister gave a five-second statement to reporters Thursday following days of controversy after he quoted a climate change denial blog in the legislature.
“I believe in climate change and I believe it is a consequence of human activity,” Minister Greg Rickford told reporters at Queen’s Park before retreating to a private room.
During question period about one hour earlier, Rickford had refused to answer the opposition’s probes directly about whether he believes climate change is caused by human activity.
“He has made a total mess of this,” Peter Tabuns, the NDP MPP who had pressed Rickford on the issue, told reporters.
“I think, fundamentally, this is a government that does not want to act on climate change. If you admit the real causes of the climate crisis, then it’s hard for you to not act. And they’ve been trying to avoid that,” Tabuns said.
“This minister has been an embarrassment and Doug Ford should fire him. Find another person who actually understands science.”
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“I don’t think there’s any dispute that Minister Rickford, myself, and this government take it very seriously,” he said.
Asked by HuffPost Canada whether Rickford actually believes what he said or was forced to say it, Calandra backed the minister.
“I’ve worked with Minister Rickford for many years both here and in Ottawa and it is something that we’ve all been seized with for a very, very long time.”
He noted that he and Rickford were part of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government when Canada’s current emissions reduction targets were set.
Site calls climate change a ‘hoax’
Rickford has been in the hot seat since Monday, when he quoted from a website that calls climate change a “hoax” created by Al Gore. The minister called it one of his “favourite periodicals” and then defended the move for days, saying he seeks out a variety of opinions.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek would not say whether he thought it was appropriate for Rickford to quote the site and ignore questions from reporters Thursday.
“I’m not judging any of my other cabinet ministers, I will not do that,” Yurek said.
He said that the government’s environment plan will tackle climate change and a new advisory panel, unveiled Thursday, will help the province adapt.
“We’re taking care of adaptation and resilience, to make sure that people are able to deal with the changes that are occurring.”
Critics say the advisory panel should have included people with expertise on reducing emissions.
“Today’s announcement shows that Ontario’s government has left the tough task of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to others, and is now running off to prepare for the worst,” said Sarah Buchanan of Environmental Defence.