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hot and not

Maxime Bernier applauds Conservative Leader Stephen Harper at an election rally in Quebec City on Oct 12, 2008.Tom Hanson

Not: Maxime Bernier. The former Foreign Affairs minister is a climate-change denier from way back, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says. And she wants Canadians to realize that the Quebec Tory MP's views are "consistent with those of his boss."

In a pointed letter to La Presse, Ms. May and her deputy leader, Jacques Rivard, write that Stephen Harper's government does not believe the climate crisis is real.

She is responding to a bombshell in the Quebec newspaper today by Mr. Bernier, once a senior member of the Harper government, in which he argues there is no scientific consensus on the matter and applauds the Conservatives for taking a go-slow approach.

"The debate over climate change, stifled for years by political correctness, has finally broken out in the media," he writes.

His letter has stirred controversy today, with Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe charging that Mr. Bernier is following the orders of the PMO, espousing the same doubts about climate change as Mr. Harper has in the past, so that he can get himself back into cabinet.

Mr. Bernier was a star minister until he had to resign after leaving secret documents in the apartment of his girlfriend, who had links to biker gangs.

Ms. May was equally concerned and angered by Mr. Bernier's letter: "Maxime Bernier has a long history as a climate change denier," she wrote. "Prior to being an MP, he was associated with the Montreal Economic Institute. In the 2006 election campaign that organization published the only confirmed public response from the Harper Conservatives denying climate science.

"The MEI opposed the IPCC science and posted a detailed reply to its questionnaire. The Harper Conservatives rejected IPCC science then. Once Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, the IPCC science was removed from the Environment Canada website."

She and Mr. Rivard note that the "Harper government hopes Canadians will not learn that their government does not believe that the climate crisis is real."

The Tories were quick to point out that Mr. Bernier's views are his own and do not reflect those of the government.

Hot: Gary Lunn. The sports minister says now is the time to take advantage of the Olympic bounce and convert the national pride out there into dollars for athletes.

There is "a huge opportunity" for the Canadian Olympic Committee to exploit, and Mr. Lunn says he's happy to help promote the cause. "You see the passion and pride in Canadians right now, right across the country, not just here in Vancouver … so there is a huge opportunity."

Mr. Lunn, who was at Ontario House to celebrate the beginning of that province's day at the Winter Games, repeated again that the federal government will not contribute any more than $11-million a year it has already pledged to help elite athletes with their training.

He suggests private-sector money might, however, fill the gap. "I think Canadians are very generous."

COC officials have been lobbying the government, hoping next week's federal budget will help make up the shortfall in funding of the Own the Podium program, designed to help Canadian athletes win medals.

When the Games end, however, so does half of the program's funding. It received $22-million a year, half from the Vancouver Olympic Committee and the other remainder from the federal government.

But Mr. Lunn says the federal budget is all about "job creation" and there is no more money to spare.

"The budget is going to be focused on job creation, let's not try to kid anybody," he said, adding that the second phase of the government's stimulus plan is also in the offing.

"The majority of that money will roll out in Year 2," he said. "It has to be focused on creating jobs. There is still more work to be done in that area."

(Photo: Mr. Bernier applauds Mr. Harper at a 2008 campaign rally in Quebec. Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)