New Brunswick

Burke resigns as N.B. environment minister

Environment Minister T.J. Burke is resigning from cabinet a month after being shuffled to the new portfolio.

Environment Minister T.J. Burke is resigning from cabinet a month after being shuffled to the new portfolio.

In a statement issued by Premier Shawn Graham's office, Burke will remain the Liberal MLA for Fredericton-Nashwaaksis and will return to his law practice. Burke had to cease practising law when he was named a cabinet minister in 2006.

"It's with a great deal of regret that I accept T.J.'s resignation from cabinet," Graham said in a statement.

"He has been a great minister and cabinet colleague, and strove every day to serve his departments and the interests of all New Brunswickers. I know this wasn't an easy decision for him to make, but I am very pleased he will continue to serve with us as a valued member of our government caucus."

Burke said it was "a very difficult decision" to resign from cabinet and it had nothing to do with the recent cabinet shuffle.

"I went to the premier and explained to him that there was a very important legal file that I had worked on from about 2002 to late 2005," Burke told reporters.

"The file is ready to settle and that file is important not only for me personally but for the clients. The clients believe that I'm in the best position to settle that file for them."

Burke, who was New Brunswick's first ever First Nations cabinet minister, said he intends to run again in 2010.

The Fredericton-area MLA has long been associated with Graham. When Graham was running for the leadership of the Liberals in 2002, Burke seconded Graham's nomination at the convention.

Fredericton-Silverwood MLA Rick Miles will replace Burke as the province's environment minister. The swearing-in ceremony will take place on Friday at 2 p.m.

Burke was moved from his post as justice minister on June 22 when Premier Shawn Graham moved several cabinet ministers into new jobs.

Burke's last few months as justice minister had been controversial. He became embroiled in a public spat with two judges and he was criticized over several budget cuts to his department.

On the day that he was named the province's environment minister, Burke said he was "ecstatic" about the transition to a new department and didn't think the switch of cabinet positions was a demotion.

"This is an elevation of portfolio for me," Burke said on June 22.

"This is a key demonstration of the premier's confidence in me, in his cabinet members, in the people who have been doing work for New Brunswick."