In almost five years that the government has been in power, it has had three different environment ministers. Government House Leader John Baird, who served as the Environment Minister from 2007-2008, was recently reappointed as the environment minister, but only on a temporary basis, following Jim Prentice's surprising resignation from Cabinet on Nov. 4. This makes him the fourth environment minister in almost as many years. Opposition parties and environmental organizations have rightly criticized this government for not taking action on the important environment and climate change files. From Rona Ambrose's failure as a minister who tried to trumpet "clean air" and make unreachable greenhouse gas targets for 2050 by encouraging consumers to buy EnergyStar appliances to Mr. Baird's almost two-year term trying to convince Canadians that meeting Canada's Kyoto Protocol targets would collapse the economy, to Mr. Prentice's policy of taking no action until the U.S. government did, this government has shown that it does not take the file seriously. The latest move, to appoint an interim environment minister who also holds the equally important government House leader's job, is just another example. In this week's Hill Times, Liberal House Leader David McGuinty noted that it's surprising Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn't have anyone waiting in the wings to be appointed permanently to a file that needs serious attention and action from a government that has pushed it aside several times before. Although it's unfortunate, it's not entirely surprising, given the government's record on the environment. Sadly, Mr. McGuinty may be right when he says that Mr. Baird has simply been appointed to "contain" the environment file, but not allow the issues to be moved forward. Mr. Baird told The Hill Times this week that having previously been the environment minister, as well as the chair of the Cabinet committee on the environment, he doesn't have a steep learning curve in his new portfolio. That's true, but now he must act, as environmental organization the Pembina Institute's Matthew Bramley has called for. The previous Liberal government didn't do much either but there are no more excuses for delay, especially coming from a seasoned and experienced minister such as Mr. Baird. He should dust off his "Turning the Corner" plan and update it with serious and meaningful measures to meet the global need for greenhouse gas reductions. The sky will not fall, the economy will not collapse, and Canada can forge ahead without the U.S., contrary to popular Conservative belief. Mr. Bramley said that when Mr. Baird took over the environment portfolio from Ms. Ambrose, he "recognized that as a responsible environment minister he had that responsibility to at least have a plan." It's time for Mr. Baird to step up and also recognize that Canada needs to start taking action on climate change. Who knows how long Mr. Baird's appointment will be and how much of his time will be devoted to the environment when compared to his House duties. Some are saying there will be a Cabinet shuffle in January after byelections are held and before a potential spring election in 2011. But if the government wants to prove Mr. McGuinty and all of its critics wrong, it should allow Mr. Baird to take serious action on climate change. Or, the PM should appoint a permanent environment minister with the mandate to do so, now.