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Cabinet shuffle moves climate agenda further from Campbell's reach

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

VICTORIA — The climate-action agenda was formally removed from Premier Gordon Campbell's sights in a cabinet shuffle Monday.

Just a year ago, Mr. Campbell's government introduced the Green Budget.

Now, on the eve of what is shaping up to be the Recession Budget, a change — buried in the background notes of a cabinet shuffle announcement — shows that the Climate Action Secretariat will no longer report to the Premier's Office. It is now an arm of the Environment Ministry.

"It's still closely aligned with me," Mr. Campbell said in an interview last night. He said the shuffle, triggered by the departure of energy minister Richard Neufeld, who has taken a Senate posting, was designed to reduce government spending.

"The climate initiative remains a critical initiative in government — this isn't about changing the priorities," Mr. Campbell said.

"What we are doing right now is what everyone in the economy is doing, which is looking at ways we can streamline the delivery of services so that we get the best value possible. This was a sensible time to do that."

Rookie cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom, who handled his first bill as a minister last weekend, will now take over as Energy Minister.

Mr. Neufeld's departure triggered several changes in cabinet but also a large-scale shakeup of the B.C. bureaucracy, with 10 deputy ministers changing places.

The most notable change is that the head of the Climate Change Secretariat, Graham Whitmarsh, is also leaving the department. Mr. Whitmarsh, who has been dubbed the climate czar, is taking an interim posting in Revenue until the spring, when he will take over as deputy minister of Finance, one of the most powerful positions in the bureaucracy. The current deputy, Chris Trumpy, is retiring.

NDP Leader Carole James said this shows the Premier has lost interest in what was once his priority — climate change.

"Once again as you see with this Premier, he puts something out as his top priority — whether it's first nations or seniors or the climate — and then he turns around and forgets about it a year later.

"It's pretty clear you can't trust him on the environment. Big on slogans. Little on action."

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