Until Tuesday, Johanne Gélinas was Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, reporting directly to Parliament on environmental issues and strategies.

The Commissioner is responsible for assessing whether federal government departments are meeting their sustainable development objectives, and for overseeing the environmental petitions process.

Gélinas had been in the post for seven years.

But on Tuesday morning her boss, Auditor General Sheila Fraser, issued a surprise statement saying the commissioner had stepped down and was ‘leaving the position to pursue other opportunities’.

In the statement Ms Fraser thanked the outgoing commissioner for her service to the Office of the Auditor General, to Parliament and to Canadians.

“Madame Gélinas and her team have done valuable work assisting Parliamentarians through their audits of government’s management of its environmental and sustainable development responsibilities,” she noted.

The Auditor General also announced that she is taking this opportunity to review the Office’s environmental and sustainable development audit practices.

This review will be similar to reviews of its financial and performance audit practices that the Office has undertaken in recent years.

Ms Gélinas told a different story, however, issuing her own brief statement saying she had been fired.

“I was considering a future departure but today’s announcement by Mrs Fraser was premature and came as a complete surprise to me,” it said.

Her annual report on how Canada was dealing with its environmental responsibilities did not tend to pull its punches.

Ms Gélinas had made herself unpopular with politicians across the political spectrum, calling on the Conservative government to set binding targets to tackle climate change despite its lukewarm stance on the Kyoto Protocol.

She also attacked the former Liberal government, ousted last year, for failing to do enough to tackle climate change.

The Canadian press have reported that Gélinas has had a difficult time over the past year as she refused to give ground on the issue and continued to fight her case without the backing of her bosses.

Sam Bond

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