#1Jan 30th, 2007
OTTAWA (CP) - The woman charged with monitoring the federal government's environmental efforts has been replaced - fired, sources say, following months of friction with her boss, Auditor General Sheila Fraser.
Fraser issued a news release Tuesday saying Environment Commissioner Johanne Gelinas was "leaving the position to pursue other opportunities."
But sources said Gelinas was fired for taking on too much of an advocacy role.
Gelinas' last report, in September, criticized the former Liberal government's record and offered suggestions to the new Conservative government on addressing climate change.
A source in Gelinas' office said the commissioner was effectively replaced months ago by Ron Thompson, an assistant auditor general who has now been appointed as her interim replacement.
Gelinas wasn't available for comment.
Fraser offered a cursory thank you to Gelinas for her six years of service: "Madame Gelinas and her team have done valuable work assisting parliamentarians through their audits of government's management of its environmental and sustainable development responsibilities."
Fraser, who became famous for breaking open the sponsorship scandal that eventually toppled the Liberal government, also announced a review of the environment commissioner's audit practices. The review is to be completed by autumn and a new commissioner will be appointed after that, she said.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May expressed shock at the loss of Gelinas.
"Auditor General Sheila Fraser is, without doubt, one of the most respected women in Canada," said May.
"My respect for her is not diminished, but I appeal to her to reconsider. This decision smacks of shooting the messenger.
"The independence of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development is established in the legislation. Neither the government nor Ms. Fraser should attempt to curtail that independence."
Liberal MP John Godfrey said he thinks the environment commissioner's office should be separated from the auditor general's office.
He praised Gelinas, calling her "an outstanding advocate for the environment."
"We need somebody with both independence and a passion to monitor us all."
New Democrat Nathan Cullen also hailed Gelinas' work.
"Madame Gelinas has provided the environment committee and, I believe, Canadians with some of the finest work we've seen. It's held government to account."
The environment commissioner is appointed by the auditor general and reports to Parliament on behalf of the auditor general.
The commissioner is responsible for assessing whether federal government departments are meeting their sustainable development objectives, and for overseeing the environmental petitions process.
Copyright © 2007 Canadian Press