UPDATE 2-Canada environment minister resigns, to join CIBC

* Jim Prentice says will leave politics by year-end

* John Baird to be temporary environment minister

* Opposition party says departure raises concerns

* Prentice a future leadership contender?
(Updates with details, reaction)

OTTAWA, Nov 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Canadian Environment Minister Jim
Prentice announced his resignation on Thursday, saying he will
leave the high-profile government post for a senior position at
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO: ).

Prentice said the time had come for him to leave public
service, but he has been frequently mentioned as a possible
contender for the Conservative Party leadership should Prime
Minister Steven Harper decide to step aside.

“When I entered federal politics in 2001 I made a
commitment that my time in politics would be eight to 10 years.
It has now, remarkably, been nine years,” he told the House of
Commons in a surprise announcement.

“It is time for me to pursue new opportunities outside of
public life,” said Prentice, a lawyer from Calgary, Alberta,
who will resign as environment minister immediately and leave
Parliament by the end of the year.

Government House Leader John Baird will serve on an acting
basis as environment minister, a position he has held in the
past, and Prentice’s resignation will not require a cabinet
shuffle, the prime minister’s office said.

The environment job of is one of the toughest in the
minority Conservative government, which critics regularly
attack for not caring enough about the environment or global
warming, in a bid to protect economic interests such as
Alberta’s oil sands.

Prentice’s resignation also comes after this week’s
Republican victories in U.S. midterm elections, which will
likely stall any efforts by the White House to push through
tighter climate change legislation.

The Conservative government has said any national action on
reducing greenhouse gas emissions would have to be tied to
reductions in the United States, which is Canada’s largest
trading partner by far.

Prentice drew mixed reviews from green groups.

The Pembina Institute said that he made significant
progress on issues such as expanding national parks and
reducing toxins in the environment. However, while it appeared
he personally wanted to address the issue of climate change, he
failed to get the government tackle the issue, it said.

“We’ve had three Conservative ministers of the environment
in the past five years and all of them have done a good job of
promoting Prime Minister Harper’s reckless and irresponsible
approach to climate change,” said Graham Saul of the Climate
Action Network.

Prentice surprised many observers when he announced on
Thursday the government would block Taseko Mine Ltd’s (TKO.TO: )
controversial Prosperity copper-gold mine in British Columbia.
[ID:nN02153973] The project had won an environmental go-ahead
from the province, but had been widely opposed by native and
environmental groups.

The opposition New Democrats said they were concerned that
Prentice’s move showed the Conservatives have too close a
relationship with banks and big business. Prentice said he had
cleared his decision with ethics officials.

CIBC said Prentice will join the bank as vice-chairman and
a member of its senior executive team, dealing with public
policy issues and expanding the bank’s dealings with corporate
clients, effective Jan 1.

“Jim Prentice is a proven leader with strong relationships
in the corporate sector and immense public policy expertise,”
Gerry McCaughey, chief executive of CIBC, said in a statement.

Prentice’s surprise departure comes just four months after
House Leader Jay Hill announced he was leaving the Conservative
government to return to the private sector.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren, writing Allan Dowd; editing by
Rob Wilson)

UPDATE 2-Canada environment minister resigns, to join CIBC