Catherine McKenna quitting federal politics, says years of online attacks were ‘just noise’

After enduring a barrage of online hate and physical attacks on her constituency office during her six years as an MP, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced Monday she will not run again in the next election.
McKenna — who led the contentious fight to levy a national price on carbon emissions as environment minister — has long been the target of sexist attacks over her vocal defence of climate action in the face of entrenched opposition.
But she said the hardship she has endured in politics was not the motivation for her departure. Rather, she said, she wants to spend more time with her kids after many nights away during her time in office. She said the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to step back and reflect on what matters most.
McKenna also said she wants to focus her energies on fighting climate change from outside of government. She’s offered to help Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian delegation at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland later this year.
She’s no stranger to this forum. Only days after being named to cabinet in 2015, McKenna led the Canadian delegation at the COP21 conference in Paris (new window) where almost every country on earth agreed to emissions reductions to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
McKenna said her experiences shouldn’t dissuade young women from entering politics. While there may be some abuse, she said, elected office is still the best place to be to bring about change.
Her office was vandalized and her Twitter feed the source of many misogynistic messages — but McKenna said entering federal politics was the only way she could enact Canada’s price on carbon and implement the country’s first meaningful climate plan to dramatically drive down emissions by 2030.
After the Supreme Court upheld the carbon levy as constitutional, she said, all parties came to accept that pricing pollution is the best way to curb emissions — a sign that politicians can make a difference.
As infrastructure minister, she also signed cheques worth tens of billions of dollars to build public transit and other green-friendly projects.
For the many people who are understandably cynical about politics, I hope you take that as hard evidence as to what’s possible. Things change, sometimes the biggest things, she told a press conference along the Rideau Canal in her Ottawa riding.
I have had my share of attacks, but that’s just noise. People want you to stop what you’re doing, and they want you to back down. We doubled down.
She vowed to do more to tackle the hate some women face when in Parliament. I’ll do everything to fight that when I’m gone, she said. We need good people in politics. Politics matters.
McKenna’s decision not to run again in Ottawa Centre creates an opening for another Liberal in a riding the party carried easily in the 2015 and 2019 federal elections after years of NDP representation by former New Democrat leader Ed Broadbent and later Paul Dewar.
There’s been some speculation that the former Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney, may jump into politics after endorsing Trudeau (new window) and the Liberals at the party’s convention in April. Carney, who lives in the area, could make a bid to carry the Liberal banner in this urban seat.
Asked about a possible Carney run, McKenna said she’s friends with the former banker and she has long encouraged him to run. He’s a good friend of mine. I think he can make a big difference. He has a lot to add. She insisted she’s not stepping aside now to make room for a star candidate.
McKenna also denied the suggestion that she’s leaving federal politics to run in the 2022 Ottawa municipal election. I told you why I’m leaving, she said. I will be 100 per cent focused on climate change.
Trudeau thanked McKenna for service, saying she worked tirelessly to tackle climate change, protect our environment, strengthen communities and inspire women and girls.
McKenna’s successor in the climate portfolio, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, praised his cabinet colleague for her significant contribution that will help provide our kids and grandkids with a healthier planet.
McKenna said she will stay on as a minister until the next election is called. While Trudeau has said he doesn’t want an election while Canada is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be a vote sometime this year.
The Liberal Party has declared a state of electoral urgency to quickly appoint candidates ahead of a possible campaign and outgoing MPs gave their farewell speeches in the Commons last week.
John Paul Tasker · CBC News