Ex-TV anchor named environment minister

Tue Jan 4, 2011 4:23pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper named former television journalist Peter Kent as environment minister on Tuesday but opted to keep other cabinet changes minimal because of the wobbly economic recovery.

Harper was forced to fill a vacancy left by the resignation last November of former environment minister Jim Prentice. He also needs to make his government election-ready in case opposition parties join forces to defeat his budget early this year.

Harper made it clear his minority Conservative government will not alter its existing policies on climate change or on the economy. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty kept his job.

Harper said the global economic recovery was still too fragile to engage in what he called "economic adventurism", a veiled reference to the main opposition Liberals' threat to vote against the budget unless the Conservatives cancel corporate tax cuts and the purchase of new fighter jets.

"We know there is a threat of an election from the opposition. We don't like it, but we take it seriously," he told reporters.

"This is a time for stability, not uncertainty."

The environment job is one of the toughest in the minority Conservative government. Critics regularly attack the government for not doing enough about global warming and for caring more about the interests of the oil industry in the western province of Alberta, the main base of the Conservatives' political support, than it does about the environment.

Harper repeated on Tuesday his view that domestic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have to be tied to reductions in the United States, Canada's largest trading partner.   Continued...