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Today's Big Story

Ambrose Out

Harper makes big changes in what says is not a pre-election shuffle.

By Richard Warnica 4 Jan 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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Stephen Harper ended weeks of rumours this morning by shuffling Rona Ambrose away from environment and into intergovernmental affairs as part of a major cabinet shake-up.

The news broke at 11 Eastern, so most pundits have yet to weigh in. The Post, Star, Globe and the CBC all played to two main elements: the perceived demotion of Ambrose, and the PM's denial that the shift anticipates a coming election.

Other big switches include Vic Toews - whose strict law and order musings often seemed off message for the "evolved" Tories - moving from Justice to the Treasury Board and John Baird taking over from Ambrose in Environment. For a full list of changes click here.

Ambrose took the heat for the Tories' perceived poor showing on the environment this fall. The government's centerpiece legislation on the issue was widely panned and was at least partially responsible for the defection/exile of the loose-lipped Garth Turner. And when the Liberals selected Stephane Dion, a former environment minister who championed green issues in his campaign, as leader in December, change was inevitable. 

According to most reports this morning, Baird is expected to perform well against Dion in the House. But Paul Wells is not so sure.

"In 1996 when Stéphane Dion became a minister, the Bloc Québécois figured they knew how to take him down," Wells wrote on his blog today. "They sent Michel Bellehumeur, a young, dapper, cocky, glib, intellectually sloppy hothead against Dion as intergovernmental-affairs critic. Clearly the plan was to get under the new guy's skin and throw him off balance. Dion shut Bellehumeur down so effortlessly it was not even spectacular to watch."

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