From: David Ljunggren, Reuters
Published January 31, 2007 12:00 AM

Canada's Environment Official Says She Was Fired

OTTAWA -- Canada's environment ombudsman, abruptly replaced Tuesday amid reports she had irritated her boss by demanding action on climate change, said she had been fired and had not quit as her boss claimed.

Environment Commissioner Johanne Gelinas worked for the office of the auditor-general, which reports to Parliament rather than the government. She issues an annual report on how Ottawa is handling environmental issues.

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser said in a statement that Gelinas was "leaving the position to pursue other opportunities".

Legislators said Fraser had told them privately that she felt Gelinas was becoming too much of an advocate for tackling climate change.

But late in the day Gelinas responded by saying she and Fraser had had differences of opinion over the last year as to what the commissioner's job should be.

"I was considering a future departure but today's announcement by Mrs Fraser was premature and came as a complete surprise to me," she said in a statement.

In a report issued last September, Gelinas said the Conservative government should set targets to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, despite its dislike of the Kyoto global warming protocol.

Canada's Conservative government insists Canada cannot meet its targets for emissions cuts under the Kyoto protocol.

She also attacked the previous Liberal government -- which was in power from 1993 to 2006 -- on the grounds that it had not done enough to cut emissions.

The Globe and Mail newspaper and other media outlets said Fraser had been unhappy for months with Gelinas over the outspoken nature of her remarks.

Fraser was not available to clarify her press release.

Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the Conservative government had only learned Tuesday that Gelinas was leaving.

Opposition legislators -- speaking before Gelinas released her statement -- did not accuse the government of interfering, but did said the move was suspicious.

"There is a pattern with this government that everything that is linked to the environment is undermined," Liberal leader Stephane Dion told reporters.

The head of the left-leaning New Democrats said Gelinas had been "very forthright, very direct" in her commentary on both the Liberal and Conservative governments.

"It's a sad day for Canada that we've lost that non-partisan voice," said Jack Layton.

Fraser appointed a 30-year veteran of the auditor-general's office, Ron Thompson, as Gelinas' interim replacement.

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer and Louise Egan)

Source: Reuters

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