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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers reporters' questions during a news conference at the NATO Summit in Lisbon November 20, 2010. (Kevin Coombs/Reuters/Kevin Coombs/Reuters)
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers reporters' questions during a news conference at the NATO Summit in Lisbon November 20, 2010. (Kevin Coombs/Reuters/Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

Stephen Harper to shuffle cabinet; Peter Kent slated for promotion Add to ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make minor adjustments to his cabinet Tuesday afternoon that will see a new Environment Minister appointed to guide the Conservatives' post-Kyoto climate change policies.

Among those being promoted are Peter Kent, currently Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas. CTV has reported that Ted Menzies, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, is also slated for a move up.

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Former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner and new Tory MP Julian Fantino also appears headed for cabinet.

A Canadian Press photographer waiting at Rideau Hall has reported that a group of visitors arrived and told the admitting guard they are here "for the Fantino swearing in."



Steven Chase on the cabinet shuffle

But there will be little in the way of major shifts. Mr. Harper believes the cabinet is performing well, on the whole. Major changes would suggest a tired government is struggling to revitalize itself on the brink of an election. But the Conservatives say they prefer to govern than to campaign, and continue to trumpet their management of the economy in the wake of a major global recession.

The new Environment Minister, whoever he or she is, will inherit a challenging portfolio, currently being shepherded by House Leader John Baird after Jim Prentice announced he was leaving politics. The Conservatives have abandoned the commitments to meet the ambitious targets for greenhouse-gas reductions agreed to but not implemented by previous Liberal governments.

Since then, Canada has earned a global reputation as a laggard on climate change. But at Copenhagen and Cancun it was the rest of the world that lowered its sights to the Canadian level, as developed nations, struggling to overcome recession, and emerging economies refused to throttle growth.

Now the Obama administration is promising to use the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to punish heavy carbon dioxide emitters. Canada has vowed to match U.S. climate-change policy.

The Democratic pledge could one day require some action on Canada's part. But given the many obstacles, political and practical, the EPA faces, it will likely be years, at best, before meaningful new rules are in place south of the border.

In that case, the next Conservative cabinet minister will have the politically heavy but policy-light challenge of stickhandling continued inaction by the federal government to fight global warming - a difficult file, but one many backbenchers would be thrilled to take on.

Follow us on Twitter: @stevenchase, @camrclark, @JohnIbbitson

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