‘Safely, I swear’: a bicycle ride, a minister and a sleepy dog

In our latest newsletter, reporter Emma McIntosh recalls how her interview with Ontario Environment Minister David Piccini finally came together

The Narwhal’s Emma McIntosh tried for months to arrange an interview with Ontario Environment Minister David Piccini. Then, in December, she got a call: could you come by in 10 minutes?

“The minister’s office called to say it was on and he had time right this second, so I hopped on my bike and went over there at top speed — safely, I swear,” Emma told me (I still need to check the street cam footage to verify that last detail). 

Emma made it to Piccini’s Bay Street office in the nick of time. Then she sat down and fired off a series of questions to Piccini while the minister’s dog Max slept by his feet.

Ontario Environment Minister David Piccini sits in a chair with his dog Max laying at his feet.
Ontario Environment Minister David Piccini is photographed with his dog Max in Toronto on Nov. 17, 2021. Photo: Carlos Osorio / The Narwhal

The result is this in-depth piece that takes a critical look at the first term MPP and the tough task he faces in this election year: convincing Ontario voters that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are serious about tackling climate change. Given the premier’s track record to date — weakening endangered species protections and planning new highways through the Greenbelt protected area, to name two — Piccini faces an uphill battle in presenting the environment file as a PC priority.

“Whether that will be achieved in a matter of weeks, months or years … ultimately, my actions will speak louder than my words,” Piccini told Emma. “At its core, I think that’s my job.”

The actions Piccini speaks of include investing in transit and proposing regulations to slash sulphur dioxide pollution by 90 per cent from oil refineries. At the same time, the minister is defending his government’s highway plans (“let’s build it, but let’s work with the pavement industry, excavating”) while voicing support for an emissions-reduction approach that leans on the private sector (“this idea that the government can regulate and legislate its way to net zero or to combat climate change is an absolute fallacy”).

The Narwhal has arrived in Ontario!

Guess what? We just launched an Ontario bureau. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism.

While Piccini is certainly bringing enthusiasm to the job — he estimates he’s visited 17 provincial parks in six months as environment minister — his critics remain wary.

“I hope it’s true [that Piccini] has at least some personal inclination to try and do the right thing,” says Phil Pothen, Ontario programs manager at Environmental Defence. “To be frank, we’re not aware of any initiatives that are at all that positive.”

Go here to read Emma’s story, which is rich in detail and dog photos. And we promise you’ll enjoy the prose. Don’t take our word for it: “you have beautiful syntax in your writing; it is almost melodic,” Barbara Piccini — the minister’s mom — wrote in an email to Emma.

Take care and cycle safely,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience

P.S. We’re jazzed to be able to say 315 readers pitched in to make end-of-year donations, helping us raise north of $35,000 — funds that we’re able to direct toward producing more award-winning coverage. Thanks to all of you who read and support our journalism. We’ve got plenty of stories brewing for the new year that we can’t wait to share.

The Narwhal in the world

Toast article screengrab: The Narwhal Proves People Will Pay For Quality Environmental Reporting

We’re chuffed to see The Narwhal get recognized by the good folks over at toast, which spotlighted our success in building a sustainable, reader-funded publication. 

Director of audience Arik Ligeti offered insights into how The Narwhal got its start, what keeps us going in tough times (spoiler: our members) and what the future may hold for independent news organizations.

“I think we’re increasingly seeing a path to sustainability for independent media outlets that are able to fill a gap and serve the needs of communities that are no longer — or never were — being served by traditional outlets,” Arik told toast.

Thanks for helping us continue to fill the gaps.

This week in The Narwhal

On Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the Kenhté:ke Seed Sanctuary preserves not just plants, but culture and language, too

A photo of dried blue Cayuga flint corn and a yellow sweet corn

By Louis Bockner

In caring for a 40-year-old collection of 300 seed varieties, the non-profit Ratinenhayén:thos aims to strengthen local food security and revitalize Indigenous connections to the land. Read more.

Lakes are losing their ice cover faster than ever — here’s what that means for us

Great Lakes, ice loss, winter, climate change

By Sapna Sharma, David Richardson and Iestyn Woolway

Climate change is shortening the season when lakes are frozen over, and some of the Great Lakes aren’t freezing at all. The impacts will be felt year round. Read more.

What we’re reading

Globe and Mail article: How rain and intense storms will change Canada’s alpine environments – and complicate avalanche forecasting
New York Times article: As Miners Chase Clean-Energy Minerals, Tribes Fear a Repeat of the Past

When you’re racing to get to an interview. Go for a ride with your friends and tell them to sign up for our newsletter.

The Narwhal has arrived in Ontario!

Guess what? We just launched an Ontario bureau. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism.

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