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Campbell downgrades climate change in shuffle of cabinet, bureaucrats

Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom is the new minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, replacing Richard Neufeld who officially resigned this morning to take a position in the Canadian senate.

The move is part of a small cabinet shuffle that also sees at least ten senior civil servants changing jobs, and responsibility for addressing climate change moved from the Premier's Office to the environment ministry.

Premier Gordon Campbell announced the changes late this afternoon.

"We are going through a period of unprecedented economic change, and government is not immune to that change," the announcement quoted Campbell saying. "Today is another part of our ongoing response to those shifts--both by ensuring we continue to have strong leadership in our economic ministries, and also by reducing the size of cabinet."

Kevin Krueger will replace Lekstrom as the minister of community development and Ida Chong will head the new ministry of small business, technology and economic development.

"The Krueger part is the most bizarre part," said NDP energy critic John Horgan. "There's a sea change in personality there."

Where Lekstrom has set a tone with municipalities of being able to get along with everyone, he said, Krueger has a reputation as an abrasive Campbell loyalist. Horgan said he wondered what the change will mean for B.C. cities who have elected NDP-connected mayors. "I could see Dean Fortin and Gregor Robertson sitting down with Blair Lekstrom and working something out. I can't see that with Kevin Krueger."

Horgan also noted that it's strange Campbell failed to replace Tom Christensen who remains minister of children and family development though he has said he won't run in the May 12 election.

As for the changes to the civil service, Horgan said Chris Trumpy will take away a lot of experience and institutional memory when he leaves his position as deputy minister of finance. As of May 1 he will be replaced by Graham Whitmarsh, who joined the government in 2007 to head the Climate Action Secretariat. Until then Whitmarsh will have the title interim associate deputy minister.

"Your go to guy on climate change has gone," said Horgan. "Moving Whitmarsh says the premier has lost interest in his latest shiny bauble which was climate change . . . He was supposed to save the planet and he's going to finance to count the beans on an interim basis."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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