Catherine McKenna

Catherine Mary McKenna PC MP (born August 5, 1971) is a Canadian Liberal politician, who was elected to represent the riding of Ottawa Centre in the House of Commons of Canada in the 2015 federal election. She served as Minister of Environment and Climate Change in the Cabinet headed by Justin Trudeau and was then moved to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities in the reshuffle following the 2019 federal election.

Catherine McKenna

Catherine McKenna 2016.jpg
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Assumed office
November 20, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byFrançois-Philippe Champagne
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 the Canadian Parliament
for Ottawa Centre
Assumed office
October 19, 2015
Preceded byPaul Dewar
Personal details
Catherine Mary McKenna

(1971-08-05) August 5, 1971 (age 48)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Scott Gilmore[1]
ResidenceThe Glebe, Ottawa
Alma mater


After graduating from École élémentaire catholique Notre-Dame (her father insisted that all his children be bilingual despite not knowing any French himself)[2] and then Saint Mary Catholic Secondary School[3] in Hamilton, Ontario. After graduating from the University of Toronto, she filmed a documentary in Asia.[4][5]


Legal careerEdit

McKenna is trained as a human rights and social justice lawyer.[6] In 2005, McKenna co-founded Canadian Lawyers Abroad - Avocats canadiens à l’étranger (CLA-ACE), now called Level [1], a University of Ottawa-based charity that helps Canadian law students and law firms do pro bono legal work in developing countries.[1][6][7]

McKenna was 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]

McKenna has practised law at leading firms in Indonesia, focusing on defending mining companies and palm oil plantations from environmental oversight.


McKenna was, before entering politics, the Executive director of Level, a charity that she cofounded.[9] Level is described as a catalyst for positive and social change. They believe that uniting the power of people, education and law will lead to a more equitable and just society.[10]

Federal politicsEdit

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) Member of Parliament (MP) Paul Dewar in the riding of Ottawa Centre.[11] McKenna said that she knocked on 100,000 doors during her 522 days as a candidate.[12] McKenna was elected with 43% of the votes compared to Dewar's 38%.[13] McKenna 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.[11]

McKenna was one of 50 women elected to the Liberal caucus in the 2015 election.[12]

Minister of Environment and Climate ChangeEdit

McKenna was appointed Minister of Environment and Climate Change in Justin Trudeau's first cabinet on November 4, 2015.[14] One of her first appearances as Minister of Environment and Climate Change was at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.[15]

In December 2016, McKenna led a clean-technology sector business delegation with Canadian and Chinese companies in China. Additionally, she served as the international executive vice-chair of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development and co-chaired the council's annual general meeting with China's Minister of Environmental Protection, Minister Chen Jining.[16]

Some of McKenna's critics have derisively nicknamed her "Climate Barbie", a label McKenna considers a sexist insult.[17] 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).[18] Ritz deleted the original post within 20 minutes, afterward posted another message stating: "I apologize for the use of Barbie, it is not reflective of the role the Minister plays".[19] 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".[20]

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.[21][22][23]

Minister of Infrastructure and CommunitiesEdit

In November 2019, McKenna was appointed as the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities after serving as Canada's second-longest environment minister.[24][25]

Personal lifeEdit

Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, she is the eldest of four children of Dr. John McKenna, an Irish dentist and his Quebec-born wife Pat McKenna, who still live in the southwest part of Hamilton.[2][3][26] On August 14, 1999, McKenna married entrepreneur and writer Scott Gilmore, with whom she has lived since 2002 in The Glebe, Ottawa.[1][2] They have two daughters and one son.[2] The actor Patrick Gilmore is Catherine's brother-in-law.

Electoral recordEdit

2019 Canadian federal election: Ottawa Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Catherine McKenna 38,391 48.7 +5.84
New Democratic Emilie Taman 22,916 29.0 -9.34
Conservative Carol Clemenhagen 9,920 12.6 -1.89
Green Angela Keller-Herzog 5,837 7.4 +4.33
People's Merylee Sevilla 720 0.9
Libertarian Coreen Corcoran 360 0.5 -0.23
Animal Protection Shelby Bertrand 207 0.3
Christian Heritage Marie-Chantal Leriche 198 0.3
Independent Chris G. Jones 177 0.2
Communist Stuart Ryan 111 0.1 -0.06
Independent Giang Ha Thu Vo 62 0.1
Total valid votes/Expense limit 78,902 100.0
Total rejected ballots 482 80.1
Turnout 79,384 100.0
Eligible voters 99,049
Liberal hold Swing -
Source: Elections Canada[27][28]
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[29][30][31]


  1. ^ a b c "Small NGO, big results". Ottawa Citizen. January 7, 2015. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d McKercher, Ian (April 9, 2015). "Catherine McKenna and the future we want for our children". The Glebe Report. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Peters, Ken (November 4, 2015). "Hamilton women who packed some political punch". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  4. ^ "Real Travels: 60 days in Indonesia."
  5. ^ Sibley, Robert (October 20, 2015). "McKenna upsets Dewar in Ottawa Centre". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Wood, Michael (August 15, 2015). "Ottawa Centre profile: Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna". Metro News. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  7. ^ Taylor-Vaisey, Nick (October 3, 2014). "An escalator pitch from Catherine McKenna on Canada in 2020". Maclean's. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  8. ^ "Catherine McKenna bio". Government of Canada. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  9. ^ "Biography". Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  10. ^ Level. "About Level". Level. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Helmer, Aedan (October 20, 2015). "Catherine McKenna scores huge victory in NDP stronghold". Ottawa Sun. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "CBC News: Election 2015 roundup". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  14. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet". CBC News.
  15. ^ "Environment minister looking for 'ambitious' deal at climate summit". CTVNews. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  16. ^ "Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change leads clean-technology business delegation to China and meets with the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development". Canada NewsWire. December 3, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  17. ^ DiManno, Rosie. "On 'Climate Barbie' and the art of the insult". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  18. ^ "Canada MP sorry for Catherine McKenna 'climate Barbie' remark". BBC News. September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  19. ^ "Gerry Ritz apologizes for calling Catherine McKenna 'climate Barbie'". CBC News. September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  20. ^ Campion-Smith, Bruce (September 20, 2017). "Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer condemns 'Barbie' insult by his own MP". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Catherine McKenna avoids Ont. government, imposes climate change agenda through municipalities, corporations". Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  23. ^ Canada, Environment and Climate Change; 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.
  24. ^ Blewett, Taylor (November 21, 2019). "Catherine McKenna out of environment, Mona Fortier into cabinet after shuffle". Archived from the original on April 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Mandate Letter". (Press release). PMO. December 13, 2019. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "List of confirmed candidates". Elections Canada. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  28. ^ "Preliminary Results". Elections Canada. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  29. ^ "Voter Information Service - Who are the candidates in my electoral district?".
  30. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates Archived August 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Canada, © 2013 - Élections. "Résultats du soir d'élection - Circonscriptions".

External linksEdit

29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Leona Aglukkaq Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
November 4, 2015 – November 20, 2019
Jonathan Wilkinson