Catherine McKenna

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Catherine McKenna
Catherine McKenna 2016.jpg
McKenna in 2016
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
In office
November 20, 2019 – October 26, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byFrançois-Philippe Champagne
Succeeded byDominic LeBlanc
(as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities)
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
In office
November 4, 2015 – November 20, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byLeona Aglukkaq
Succeeded byJonathan Wilkinson
Member of Parliament
for Ottawa Centre
In office
October 19, 2015 – September 20, 2021
Preceded byPaul Dewar
Succeeded byYasir Naqvi
Personal details
Catherine Mary McKenna

(1971-08-05) August 5, 1971 (age 51)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
(sep. 2019)
Residence(s)The Glebe, Ottawa
Alma mater

Catherine Mary McKenna PC (born August 5, 1971) is a Canadian lawyer and former politician who served as a Cabinet minister from 2015 to 2021. A member of the Liberal Party, McKenna was the minister of environment and climate change from 2015 to 2019 and minister of infrastructure and communities from 2019 to 2021. She was the member of Parliament (MP) for Ottawa Centre from 2015 to 2021, after deciding not to seek reelection in the 2021 federal election.

After leaving politics, McKenna founded the Climate and Nature Solutions advisory firm, became a visiting fellow at Columbia University, and served as the chair of the United Nations High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities.

Early life and career[edit]

McKenna was born on August 5, 1971 in Hamilton, Ontario.[1][2] She is the eldest of four children of Dr. John McKenna, an Irish dentist and his Quebec-born wife Pat McKenna, who lived in the southwest part of Hamilton.[1][3][4]

After graduating from École élémentaire catholique Notre-Dame (her father insisted that all his children be bilingual despite not knowing any French himself),[1] McKenna attended Saint Mary Catholic Secondary School.[3]

McKenna earned her undergraduate degree in French and international relations from the University of Toronto. She was the captain of the university's swim team, won three of the four Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union she attended with her team, and reached the Canadian Olympics trials for swimming at the 1988 Summer Olympics.[3] After graduating from the University of Toronto, she travelled through south-east Asia and co-produced a travel documentary with her friend, Steve Hulford.[5][6] McKenna earned a master's degree in international relations from the London School of Economics.[3]

Legal career[edit]

Between 1996 and 1999, McKenna studied law at McGill University before beginning her legal career in Jakarta, Indonesia at the firm, SSEK where she focused on international trade, investment and constitutional issues.[7] In 2001, she moved to East Timor where she spent a year as a senior negotiator with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor which culminated in the Timor Sea Treaty providing for the joint exploitation of petroleum resources in a part of the Timor Sea.[8]

She returned to Canada in 2002, where she joined Stikeman Elliott LLP, working in the areas of competition, trade, and constitutional law.[9] During this time she was senior counsel on the review of Canada's military justice system, headed by Antonio Lamer, former chief justice of Canada.[10]

In 2005, McKenna co-founded Canadian Lawyers Abroad - Avocats canadiens à l'étranger (CLA-ACE), now called Level Justice,[11] a University of Ottawa-based charity that helps Canadian law students and law firms do pro bono legal work in developing countries.[7][12] Level Justice works to reduce barriers to justice by uniting the power of people, education and law will lead to create a more equitable and just society.[13]

She remains a member of the bars of Ontario and New York State.[3]

Political career[edit]

McKenna on November 4, 2015, shortly before being sworn into cabinet.
McKenna speaking at Chatham House in 2017

In the 2015 federal election, McKenna defeated longtime New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Paul Dewar in the riding of Ottawa Centre.[14] McKenna said that she knocked on 100,000 doors during her 522 days as a candidate.[15] McKenna was elected with 43 per cent of the votes compared to Dewar's 38 per cent,[16] and had campaigned on issues such as reforming the National Capital Commission, funding for a new main branch of the Ottawa Public Library, and opposing the proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism.[14]

McKenna was one of 50 women elected to the Liberal caucus in the 2015 election.[15]

Minister of Environment and Climate Change[edit]

As Canada’s former Minister of the Environment and Climate Change she was a lead negotiator of the 2015 Paris Agreement (in particular Article 6 concerning carbon markets). In 2016, she announced the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change with the provinces, territories and Indigenous communities. In 2018, the carbon pricing scheme was implemented by the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which was upheld at the Supreme Court in 2021.[11] She also led efforts to phase out coal, reduce plastics in oceans and waterways, and doubled the amount of nature protected in Canada in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

While in government, she helped establish the Powering Past Coal Alliance (with Canada, the UK and Bloomberg Philanthropies), the Ministerial on Climate Action (with Canada, the UK and China), the Women Kicking it on Climate Summit and the Nature Champions Summit, was Co-Chair of the World Bank's Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, and helped develop the Ocean Plastics Charter adopted at the G7 hosted by Canada in 2018.[17]

Some of McKenna's critics, such as Rebel News, have derisively nicknamed her "Climate Barbie", a label McKenna considers a sexist insult.[11][18] Conservative MP Gerry Ritz caused controversy in September 2017 when he tweeted a link to a news story stating no industrialized nations were on pace to meet Paris Agreement carbon emission targets with the comment "Has anyone told our climate Barbie! [sic]" (referring to McKenna).[19] Ritz eventually deleted the original post, afterward posted another message stating: "I apologize for the use of Barbie, it is not reflective of the role the Minister plays".[20] Conservative leader Andrew Scheer condemned Ritz's comment later in the day and stated he would reach out to McKenna personally to "assure the minister that this type of behavior has no place in the Conservative caucus".[21]

In May 2018, the Trudeau government's decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion was criticized by environmental activists as contrary to its climate change plans.[11]

In November 2018, in response to the Government of Ontario's decision to cancel all climate action projects supported through the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund, McKenna announced that the Government of Canada would work directly with businesses to re-invest the $200-million remaining in the province's Low Carbon Economy Fund.[22][23][24]

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities[edit]

After the 2019 federal election, McKenna was appointed as the minister of infrastructure and communities in November 2019.[25][26] The same month, she was the keynote speaker at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.[11] As Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, she made historic investments in public transit and green infrastructure, leveraged private sector investment through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and led the development of Canada’s first National Infrastructure Assessment to drive to net-zero emissions by 2050.[17]

In 2019, McKenna was provided with an Royal Canadian Mounted Police security detail over verbal harassment issues. On October 24, 2019, her office was defaced with a misogynistic slur.[11]

In late June 2021, McKenna announced she would not seek re-election to her seat in Parliament.[27][28] Following the 2021 federal election, she was succeeded as MP by Yasir Naqvi, a Liberal who served as the attorney general of Ontario in the provincial government of Kathleen Wynne.[29]

Post-political career[edit]

After leaving politics, McKenna founded Climate and Nature Solutions, an advisory firm that works with governments, corporations, foundations and universities to scale practical climate and nature-based solutions.[30] She also joined Columbia University's Centre on Global Energy Policy and Climate School.[31] In 2022, she chaired the United Nations High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities which issued the landmark report, Integrity Matters: Net Zero Commitments by Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions, in November 2022.[32][33]

Personal life[edit]

McKenna was married to entrepreneur and writer Scott Gilmore, with whom she moved to The Glebe, Ottawa in 2002, until separating in 2019. Together, they have three children. McKenna still swims for fun. In 2015, she competed as part of the National Capital YMCA Masters Swim Team.[1][11]

Electoral record[edit]

2019 Canadian federal election: Ottawa Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Catherine McKenna 38,391 48.66 +5.99 $113,154.09
New Democratic Emilie Taman 22,916 29.04 -9.50 $119,073.61
Conservative Carol Clemenhagen 9,920 12.57 -1.92 $63,743.89
Green Angela Keller-Herzog 5,837 7.40 +4.42 none listed
People's Merylee Sevilla 720 0.91 $2,536.21
Libertarian Coreen Corcoran 360 0.46 -0.27 $1,030.86
Animal Protection Shelby Bertrand 207 0.26 none listed
Christian Heritage Marie-Chantal Leriche 198 0.25 none listed
Independent Chris G. Jones 177 0.22 $3,526.62
Communist Stuart Ryan 111 0.14 -0.02 $496.90
Independent Giang Ha Thu Vo 65 0.08 none listed
Total valid votes/expense limit 78,902 99.39
Total rejected ballots 482 0.61 +0.10
Turnout 79,384 78.43 -1.57
Eligible voters 101,219
Liberal hold Swing +7.74
Source: Elections Canada[34][35]
2015 Canadian federal election: Ottawa Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Catherine McKenna 32,111 42.66 +22.54 $192,865.14
New Democratic Paul Dewar 29,098 38.54 −13.62 $196,692.80
Conservative Damian Konstantinakos 10,943 14.49 −7.14 $74,191.60
Green Tom Milroy 2,246 2.97 −2.06 $5,564.56
Libertarian Dean T. Harris 551 0.73
Rhinoceros Conrad Lukawski 167 0.22 $2.96
Marijuana John Andrew Omowole Akpata 160 0.21
Communist Stuart Ryan 124 0.16
Total valid votes/Expense limit 75,500 100.00   $233,540.54
Total rejected ballots 386 0.51
Turnout 75,886 82.82
Eligible voters 91,625
Liberal gain from New Democratic Swing +18.08
Source: Elections Canada[36][37][38]


  1. ^ a b c d McKercher, Ian (April 9, 2015). "Catherine McKenna and the future we want for our children". The Glebe Report. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  2. ^ Milnes, Arthur (August 5, 2021). "Today in Canada's Political History: Birthday of the Honourable Catherine McKenna". National Newswatch. Retrieved February 6, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e Peters, Ken (November 4, 2015). "Hamilton women who packed some political punch". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  4. ^ Catherine McKenna [@cathmckenna] (October 18, 2015). "Tomorrow's a big day. Thankful that I have my mom & dad in town. I owe so much to them. #RealChangeStartsAtHome #lpc" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  5. ^ "Real Travels: 60 days in Indonesia."
  6. ^ Sibley, Robert (October 20, 2015). "McKenna upsets Dewar in Ottawa Centre". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Wood, Michael (August 15, 2015). "Ottawa Centre profile: Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna". Metro News. Archived from the original on March 13, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  8. ^ "Catherine McKenna bio". Government of Canada. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  9. ^ "Catherine McKenna – Master of Global Affairs". Master of Global Affairs. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  10. ^ Toolkit, Web Experience. "The Honourable Catherine McKenna". Prime Minister of Canada. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Guly, Christopher (July 14, 2021). "McKenna set to dive into new, post-politics pool to combat climate change". The Hill Times. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  12. ^ Taylor-Vaisey, Nick (October 3, 2014). "An escalator pitch from Catherine McKenna on Canada in 2020". Maclean's. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Level. "About Level". Level. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Helmer, Aedan (October 20, 2015). "Catherine McKenna scores huge victory in NDP stronghold". Ottawa Sun. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Blanchfield, Mike. "Chief, mayors, refugees: rookie Liberals bring diverse job experience to caucus". The Canadian Press. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  16. ^ "CBC News: Election 2015 roundup". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  17. ^ a b "About". Climate and Nature Solutions. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  18. ^ DiManno, Rosie (November 7, 2017). "On 'Climate Barbie' and the art of the insult". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  19. ^ "Canada MP sorry for Catherine McKenna 'climate Barbie' remark". BBC News. September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  20. ^ "Gerry Ritz apologizes for calling Catherine McKenna 'climate Barbie'". CBC News. September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  21. ^ Campion-Smith, Bruce (September 20, 2017). "Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer condemns 'Barbie' insult by his own MP". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  22. ^ "Canada announces new Energy Savings Rebate program to help Ontarians save money and fight climate change". Government of Canada. August 27, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  23. ^ "Catherine McKenna avoids Ont. government, imposes climate change agenda through municipalities, corporations". Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  24. ^ Canada, Environment and Climate Change (November 8, 2018). "Government of Canada to support energy efficiency and climate action in Ontario". gcnws. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  25. ^ Blewett, Taylor (November 21, 2019). "Catherine McKenna out of environment, Mona Fortier into cabinet after shuffle". Archived from the original on April 21, 2020.
  26. ^ "Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Mandate Letter". (Press release). PMO. December 13, 2019. Archived from the original on April 21, 2020.
  27. ^ "'I've got another chapter in me': McKenna leaves federal politics, looks forward". Kitchissippi times. September 9, 2021. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  28. ^ Bryden, Joan (June 27, 2021). "Catherine McKenna retiring from politics, will not run in next election". CTVNews. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  29. ^ "Yasir Naqvi elected as MP for Ottawa Centre". Kitchissippi times. October 7, 2021. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  30. ^ "Climate and Nature Solutions". Climate and Nature Solutions. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  31. ^ "Columbia | SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy | Catherine McKenna". Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  32. ^ "High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities". Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  33. ^ INTEGRITY MATTERS: NET ZERO COMMITMENTS BY BUSINESSES, FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS, CITIES AND REGIONS (PDF) (Report). High‑Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities. November 18, 2022. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  34. ^ "List of confirmed candidates". Elections Canada. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  35. ^ "Official Voting Results". Elections Canada. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  36. ^ "Voter Information Service - Who are the candidates in my electoral district?".
  37. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates Archived August 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Canada, © 2013 - Élections. "Résultats du soir d'élection - Circonscriptions".

External links[edit]

29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
François-Philippe Champagne Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
November 20, 2019 – October 26, 2021
Dominic LeBlanc
Leona Aglukkaq Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
November 4, 2015 – November 20, 2019
Jonathan Wilkinson