Canada's new Environment Minister has a famous relative: Peter Kent is the older brother of the so-called "Scud Stud," handsome former NBC reporter Arthur Kent. Like his famous brother, Peter Kent will have to be on guard for plenty of enemy fire.
Both have TV experience, and both worked at NBC. But Peter Kent, the new conservative cabinet minister named this week by Harper, is best known in Canada as a long-time Canadian news TV anchor for the CTV and Global networks. Like his handsome sib who came to fame in the first Gulf War, Peter Kent has worked in hot spots overseas, like Vietnam during the last days of the war, as a reporter and producer.
Now Peter Kent, 67, will have his hands full in another hot spot -- defending Canada's oilsands against increasing environmental opposition. That and new climate laws will surely be a test for Kent's proven communication skills.
Kent, who represents a district near Toronto in Canada's parliament, is Harper's fifth Environment Minister in as many years.
It's a tough job. Besides the festering oil-sands, P.R., and pollution problem, Harper has said his government, pragmatically and realistically, will match any U.S. carbon-regulation policies. President Obama's EPA is working on new regulations.
One conservative Canadian publication, the National Post, carried a column this week by Terence Corcoran saying that Kent's broadcasting skills "give him a knack for careful language and a reassuring voice, exactly what's needed in the face of the ongoing media storm over climate change and carbon emissions."
Harper's government has been under increasing pressure to develop its own carbon-emission regulations this year, legislation similar to what the U.S. House passed.
"Dirty old man"
This may be easier for Canada, which gets far more of its electricity from non-coal sources like hydro than does the U.S. But there's still the sticky matter of those tarsands, called "oilsands" by Alberta's image-conscious government and big oil companies.
Canada's largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, responded to Kent's appointment this week with its own less sympathetic editorial, noting that Canada's "international reputation as a do-gooder" has taken a pounding lately because of Harper's slowness to act on carbon emissions and especially, "on the question of the Alberta tarsands."
The Star piece, also carried in the Winnipeg Free Press, said that many epithets have been hurled at Canada lately, noting that one of the more hurtful came from The Guardian back in the old country (Britain), which recently called Canada "the dirty old man of the climate world."
"As the EPA moves forward, " said the Star piece, "the Harper government will be expected to live up to its promise to match the U.S. regulatory approach. Ottawa plans to introduce standards for new coal-fired power plants, but it's nothing compared to what the Americans are considering.
"The EPA, backed by the Obama administration, is expected to face fierce resistance in Congress and in the courts, but Ottawa can't sit back and await the outcome.
"Mr. Harper repeatedly has said his government would follow the U.S. lead on the greenhouse gas issues. So it must immediately begin working with the EPA and American political interests on goals that work for both countries.
"The time for action, Mr. Kent, is now."
Now, if only the new environment minister's name were CLARK Kent, you'd see some quick action. Because cleaning up Alberta's huge and messy oil patch is truly a job for Superman.
Follow Bill Mann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/newsmann