Ex-minister Peter Kent looks forward to the backbench

Former environment minister was happy to step aside to make room for younger colleagues, but surprised to see the same "old farts" on the front bench after shuffle.

Major regret no regulations created for oil and gas sector

Former Environment Minister Peter Kent, pictured at a committee meeting in April, told CBC Radio's The House that he regrets not getting regulations through on the oil and gas sector. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

After taking to Facebook in the run-up to the recent cabinet shuffle to say he'd be willing to give up his cabinet position to make room for the "generational change" Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he was after, former environment minister Peter Kent says he was a little surprised to see so many of his older former colleagues still in place.

"I had joked with a number of colleagues that I would look to set up an Ex-Cabinet Old Farts Caucus after the shuffle," Kent said in an interview with host Kathleen Petty on CBC Radio's The House. "But I found out on Monday that most of the old farts are still in cabinet!"

Kent, who was first elected to his Thornhill riding in Ontario in 2008 and had been a member of cabinet in various roles since, is looking forward to what he sees as the freedom of the backbench compared to cabinet.

"One has to keep one's nose in one's file and keep any discussion within cabinet," said Kent. "I'm looking forward to a very different sort of policy engagement and an opportunity to express my mind and opinion across all our files."

Kent says he will run again in 2015.

Of his time at the head of Environment Canada, which was marked by controversies such as his accusations that environmental charities were "laundering" donations from international donors and what many saw as a failure to make headway on greenhouse gas emissions, Kent has one major regret.

Economy primary concern

"If I have one major disappointment it's that I didn't get the oil and gas regulations on my watch."  The Harper government's industry-by-industry approach to regulations is one Kent supports, and he says that the coal-fired regulations were tough and took longer than he would have liked. "One size doesn't fit all across all of the sectors."

On the balance between doing right for the environment versus competing economic interests, Kent says it's the government's main priority to protect jobs and growth.

"Environmental responsibility can only be funded by a prosperous nation," he says. "And that industry is providing a great deal of the prosperity and revenues that have helped to keep Canada healthy through this period."

Listen to the full interview with former environment minister Peter Kent on CBC Radio's The House.