John Baird (Canadian politician)

John Baird (Canadian politician)

Infobox CanadianMP
honorific-prefix = The Honourable
name = John Russell Baird
honorific-suffix =

riding = Ottawa West—Nepean
parliament = Canadian
term_start = 2006 federal election
term_end =
predecessor = Marlene Catterall
birth_date = birth date and age|mf=yes|1969|05|26
birth_place = Nepean, Ontario, Canada
death_date =
death_place =
party = Conservative
portfolio = Minister of the Environment
profession = Consultant, politician
spouse = Single
residence = Ottawa, Ontario
footnotes = |

John Russell Baird, PC, MP (born May 26, 1969) is a Canadian politician. A long-time resident of the former city of Nepean and a graduate of Kingston's Queens University, he is the member of the Canadian House of Commons for the riding of Ottawa West—Nepean. He was elected as a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada in the 2006 federal election when his party won a minority government over Paul Martin's Liberal Party.

Baird currently serves in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Minister of the Environment, a post he has held since a cabinet reshuffle in January 2007, when he succeeded Rona Ambrose. Prior to this, he served as the President of the Treasury Board during the Conservatives' first year in power, before being replaced by Vic Toews.

Baird also previously served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2005 for the riding of Nepean-Carleton (previously part of Nepean until 1999), and was a cabinet minister in the Progressive Conservative governments of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. He served as the Minister for Children, Community and Social Services, Energy and Francophone Affairs in addition of being the Government's Chief Whip. After the Conservatives defeat to Dalton McGuinty's Ontario Liberal Party, he was the party's critic for key portfolios including finance, culture and health. Baird was a member of the Conservatives since 1985, when he was the youngest delegate at that time and was also a political aide for the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in the late 1980s [ [ The 39th Parliament:Stephen Harper's first shuffle] , CBC, January 4, 2007 ] [ [ The Honourable John Baird Member of Parliament for Ottawa West--Nepean Minister of the Environment : Biography] , Environment Canada, access October 24, 2007] Since his beginning in the political ranks, Baird is well known for being combative in many subjects in both levels of government. During his tenure in the Harris Cabinet, he adopted several cost-saving measures including cuts to social programs and a failed attempt to sell Hydro One, the government-owned utility firm. As the federal President of the Treasury Board in the Harper Cabinet, he adopted the Federal Accountability Act, which was put in place after the Gomery Commission which investigated the federal sponsorship scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As Environment Minister, Baird has implemented several guidelines for the reduction of greenhouse emissions in Canada, while simultaneously being opposed to the Kyoto Protocol which Canada had previously ratified. [ [ In Depth: Canada-Kyoto timeline] , CBC News, February 14, 2007 ]

Early life and career

A resident of Nepean, he became involved in politics when he backed a candidate for the local federal PC nomination in 1984. The next year, at age sixteen, Baird was the youngest delegate to attend the party's January 1985 leadership convention. [ Jake Rupert and Shannon Proudfoot, "Baird takes Liberal stronghold", "Ottawa Citizen", 24 January 2006, D3.] as a supporter of Ontario Attorney-General Roy McMurtry.

He was later president of the youth wing of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and aligned himself with Dennis Timbrell during the latter's abortive campaign for the PC leadership in 1989-90. He backed Mike Harris when Timbrell withdrew from the contest. Baird has also indicated that he was charged with trespassing during the 1988 federal election, after he tried to question Ontario Premier David Peterson about free trade with the United States during a Liberal Party campaign stop in a Kingston shopping mall. [Duncan McMonagle, "Peterson cites examples of U.S. woe in bid to block deal", "Globe and Mail", 7 November 1988, A8.] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Studies from Queen's University in 1992. [ [ The Honourable John Baird Member of Parliament for Ottawa West--Nepean Minister of the Environment, Environment Canada] ]

Baird worked on the political staff of Perrin Beatty when Beatty was federal Minister of National Defence in the early 1990s, and followed Beatty through subsequent cabinet shifts culminating in his becoming Secretary of State for External Affairs in the short-lived government of Kim Campbell. ["A sketch of Environment Minister John Baird", "Canadian Press", 4 January 2007, 14:39.] After the defeat of the federal Progressive Conservatives in the 1993 federal election, Baird worked as a lobbyist in Ottawa. [Daniel Drolet, "Youngest MPP comes of age", "Ottawa Citizen", 5 September 1995, B3.]

Baird has been a vegetarian since 1997. [cite news|url=|date=2008-06-16|publisher=The Hill Times|last=MacLeod|first=Henry|title=MPs and busy lives don't make for great food choices|accessdate=2008-06-17] He has a pet grey tabby cat. In June 2008, he was selected by the Ottawa Business Journal as a recipient of the "Forty Under 40" award. ["Ottawa Business Journal" June 16, 2008, p. 3.]

Provincial politics

Government backbencher

While Baird had previously been associated with moderate Tories such as Timbrell and Beatty, he became associated with the more right-wing ideology of the Mike Harris-led Ontario PC party upon entering provincial politics. He was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995, defeating Liberal incumbent Hans Daigeler in the Ottawa-area riding of Nepean. The youngest member of the legislature, Baird was appointed parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour on July 13, 1995. [ "John R. Baird MPP : Parliamentary History] , Legislative Assembly of Ontario, online document]

He became parliamentary assistant to Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet in April 1997, and was promoted to parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance in November of the same year. As a backbencher, Baird proposed a bill officially naming Highway 416 as the "Veterans' Memorial Highway" and successfully steered its passage through the legislature. [ [ Local dignitaries cry out for Veterans Memorial Highway] , Perley Rideau, Fall 2006, page 8, accessed October 24, 2007.] He was easily re-elected in 1999 defeating future Ottawa councillor Gord Hunter by a margin of almost 15 000 votes [ [
] , Elections Ontario, online document.

Community and Social Services minister

Baird joined Premier Harris's cabinet on June 17, 1999 as Minister of Community and Social Services, where he became responsible for implementing and expanding Ontario's workfare program. [ "Baird brings clout, baggage to his new job"] , Toronto Star, January 5, 2007 ] As one of Harris's few bilingual ministers, he was also named as Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs.


Baird's first press conference as a cabinet minister was held in July 1999, and was intended to highlight the Harris government's record in reducing the provincial welfare rolls. Baird told reporters that 15,000 people had left the system since the introduction of workfare, and used this figure to argue that the government's policy was a success. At the time, he lacked information on the number of workfare recipients who actually found jobs, and he also did not account for 40% of the welfare recipients who had been cut from the list. [Jane Coutts, "15,000 fell off welfare in July, Tories say ", "Globe and Mail", 17 August 1999, A7 and Caroline Mallan, "Workfare stats elude minister", "Toronto Star", 17 August 1999, p. 1.] A number of media reports subsequently criticized both the principle and the implementation of workfare in Ontario. [One political columnist, Ian Urquhart, described the program as "largely a fraud". See Ian Urquhart, "Workfare program a fraud", "Toronto Star", 18 August 1999, p. 1.]

A September 1999 report from Baird's ministry showed that 10,600 workfare placements had been created in the first six months of 1999, a figure which the "Toronto Star" observed was significantly lower than that which had been predicted by the government. ["Hardly a triumph", "Toronto Star", 5 November 1999, p. 1.] Baird indicated that he would continue with the workfare program, and that the proportion of welfare recipients on workfare would be increased from 15% to 30%. [Richard Mackie, "Ontario workfare plans won't work", "Globe and Mail", 31 December 1999, A7.]

Baird came under criticism in late 1999 for refusing to cancel a five-year contract that had been signed between his department and the Bermuda-based private firm Andersen Consulting (later Accenture), worth up to $180 million. The contract, signed when Janet Ecker was Community and Social Services minister, entrusted Andersen with providing technological upgrades to the province's welfare management system. The arrangement was criticized by Auditor General Erik Peters, who observed that there was nothing in the contract to prevent Andersen from increasing its hourly rates. [Theresa Boyle, "Some consulting service fees higher, ministry confirms", "Toronto Star", 10 December 1999, p. 1.] A published report in early 2000 indicated that Andersen was charging an average of $257 per hour for work that had previously been done by ministry staff at $51 per hour. Another report indicated that the firm had charged a total of $55 million to find roughly $66 million worth of savings. ["Ontario Tories real perpetrators of welfare fraud", "Toronto Star", 15 January 2000; Colin Perkel, "Tracking device angers opposition", "Toronto Star", 31 March 2000, p. 1.] In response to opposition questions, Baird said that he would not terminate the contract but would endeavour to negotiate a lower rate. ["Ontario rejects call to fire firm", "Winnipeg Free Press", 10 December 1999, B6. In 2005, a glitch in Accenture's computer system prevented an increase in payments for Ontarians with disabilities.] Baird opposed the Harris government's plan to amalgamate the city of Ottawa with neighboring municipalities, which was approved by the Legislature in 1999. [Dan Nolan, "Tory MPPs talk merger with caucus", "Hamilton Spectator", 30 November 1999, A01.]


In January 2000, Baird unveiled a series of initiatives designed to reduce fraud and misuse in the welfare system. This was highlighted by the establishment of a welfare fraud hotline. ["Government Continues Crackdown on Welfare Fraud and Misuse", "Canada NewsWire", 6 January 2000, 10:45 report.] Three months later, he added that anyone convicted of welfare fraud would run the risk of being given a lifetime ban from the program. ["Ontario's Zero Tolerance Policy on Welfare Cheats Effective Today", "Canada NewsWire", 1 April 2000.] Critics of this approach suggested that the Harris government was overstating the extent of fraud in order to undermine public confidence in welfare programs. [Richard Mackie, "Ontario 'inflating' welfare fraud", "Globe and Mail", 7 January 2000, A8.] In mid-year, Baird announced that workfare placements had reached departmental quotas for most of the province. [James McCarten, "Ontario workfare placements finally up to snuff: Baird", "Canadian Press", 5 June 2000, 16:02 report.]

Baird revealed a $50 million program in May 2000 to help people with developmental disabilities become integrated into their communities. ["Disabled people to get more funds", "Globe and Mail", 6 May 2000, A9.] He later affirmed that the province was considering closing its remaining three institutions for the mentally handicapped as part of a larger strategy focusing on home care. Baird expressed concern about the physical condition of these institutions, saying that their residents "deserve better". [Tom Blackwell, "Ontario could close institutions for mentally disabled", "National Post", 15 September 2000, A04.] Later in the year, Baird stated that his department would spend $26 million on shelters and other funding for the homeless. [James Stevenson, "Ontario to spend $26 million on shelters and programs for homeless", "Canadian Press", 21 December 2000, 17:59 report.]

Baird supported mandatory drug-testing for welfare recipients and argued that those who refused such tests should be at risk of have their assistance cut off. He introduced a policy initiative to this effect at a press conference in late 2000, in which he dramatically cast a box of syringes onto the floor and said that his department planned to "stop people from shooting their welfare cheque up their arm, and to help them shoot up the ladder of success". Baird acknowledged that his department did not have reliable figures on the number of welfare recipients abusing drugs, although he cited estimates of between 4% and 10%. [Tom Blackwell, "Civil rights group may challenge drug testing", "National Post", 15 November 2000, A27.] The proposal was met with criticism from several sources, and Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Keith Norton, himself a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, expressed concern that it could violate basic civil liberties. [Theresa Boyle, "Welfare drug test plan sets off storm", "Toronto Star", 15 November 2000, p. 1.]

Shortly after Baird's announcement, a government website operated by the Ministry of Community and Social Services launched an attack against Liberal Party leader Dalton McGuinty for opposing the drug testing plan. The site claimed that McGuinty was "opposed to helping welfare recipients who are addicted to drugs". Baird denied that the message was partisan and initially refused to apologize. [Richard Mackie, "Government-funded Web site launches attack on McGuinty", "Globe and Mail", 6 December 2000, A7.] The Speaker of the Ontario Legislature subsequently ruled that the site content was inappropriate and it was removed with an apology from the government. ["Tories-web attack", "Broadcast News", 13 December 2000, 14:55 report.] The drug-testing plan was never fully implemented.


In early 2001, Baird announced that his government's proposed drug-testing plan would be extended to identify welfare recipients addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol. [Tom Blackwell, "Tories to force alcoholics on welfare into treatment", "National Post", 26 January 2001, A02.] He later announced that provincial welfare applicants would be required to pass a literacy test. [Tom Blackwell, "Literacy to be mandatory to get welfare", "National Post", 4 May 2001, A04.] The Harris government's welfare policies were put under scrutiny in August 2001 after a pregnant woman in Sudbury, Kimberly Rogers, died while serving a house arrest for welfare fraud. The woman had been confined to her apartment for three months and reports indicated that her pregnancy was "exacerbated by sweltering conditions in her apartment". Responding to criticism, Baird said that he could not comment on the specifics of the case until a coroner's inquest was completed. [Mark MacKinnon and Keith Lacey, "Bleak House", "Globe and Mail", 18 August 2001, F1.] He also defended his government's general policy on welfare issues. ["Province defends welfare rules after death of pregnant Sudbury, Ont., woman", "Canadian Press", 17 August 2001, 08:50 report.] A subsequent inquest did not assign blame to the government for the woman's death, but recommended that lifetime bans for fraud be eliminated, and that adequate food, housing and medication be provided to anyone under house arrest. [ [ "Selected Inquest Recommendations", Elizabeth Fry Society] , online document.] Baird was given additional responsibilities as Minister responsible for Children on February 8, 2001. His department increased funding for child services early in the year, amid a significant increase in provincial demand. [Martin Mittelstaedt, "Funding boosted for child services", "Globe and Mail", 15 February 2001, A16.] In November 2001, the provincial media obtained a confidential government report recommending 40-45% cuts in provincial child-care programs. Baird initially declined to comment on the document's contents, but rejected its proposals in early 2002. ["Minister silent on child-care paper", "Toronto Star", 15 November 2001, p. 33; Cassandra Szklarski, "Ontario's Tories say no plan to slash child care as indicated in leaked report", "Canadian Press", 17 January 2002, 17:12 report.]

Baird was the first cabinet minister to support Jim Flaherty's campaign to succeed Mike Harris as Progressive Conservative Party leader in the party's 2002 leadership election. [Richard Mackie, "Three ministers surge ahead in Tory race", "Globe and Mail", 29 October 2001, A10.] The election was won by Flaherty's rival Ernie Eves, and early media reports suggested that Baird might be dropped from the new premier's cabinet in April 2002. [Caroline Mallan and Richard Brennan, "Eves gives rival plum job", "Toronto Star", 15 April 2002, A19.] He was not, but was demoted to the position of Chief Government Whip while remaining associate minister for Francophone Affairs. His replacement in Social Services was Brenda Elliott, who was from the more centrist wing of the Progressive Conservative Party. [ [ "Premier Eves Sworn in as Ontario’s 23rd Premier : New Cabinet Announced"] , UDI/Ontario, 2003]

Energy Minister and Government House Leader

Baird was returned to a more prominent cabinet position in August 2002 after Eves separated the ministries of Environment and Energy and appointed Baird to head the latter department. Baird was given additional responsibilities as Government House Leader in June 2003 after Chris Stockwell was forced to resign following allegations that he had used government funds for a family vacation. [April Lindgren, "Stockwell quits over expenses", "National Post", 17 June 2003, A1.]

As Energy Minister, Baird was initially entrusted with implementing the government's plan to sell off part of Ontario's Hydro One. [Colin Perkel, "Ministry in such hot water, Eves splits duties", "Hamilton Spectator", 23 August 2002, B05.] A few months later, he became unexpectedly involved in two major and interrelated policy reversals. The Energy ministry came under intense media scrutiny in late 2002 after hydro rates increased significantly in many parts of the province. Critics argued that the Progressive Conservative government's price deregulation policy (implemented before Baird became Energy Minister) was responsible. Baird suggested that the rate increases resulted from an unusually hot summer. [Chinta Puxley and Fred Vallance-Jones, "High bills shock consumers", "Hamilton Spectator", 25 September 2002, A12.] Rates remained high through the autumn, and the Eves government was forced to re-regulate the market in November by introducing a price cap. [Rajiv Sekhri, "Ontario caps power rates as deregulation unravels", "Reuters News", 11 November 2002, 19:07 report.] The government continued to support deregulation in principle, but maintained the cap for the remainder of its term in office. The second and more fundamental reversal occurred in late January 2003, when Premier Eves personally announced that Hydro One would remain under public control. [ [ "Hydro sale dead: Eves", CBC News Report] , 20 January 2003 (revised 4 December 2003, 8:43:55)]

Baird was regarded as less combative as Energy Minister than he had been in Community and Social Services. The energy policies of the Eves government were controversial, but opposition criticism was often directed at the premier rather than at Baird. Eves took a prominent interest in the Energy portfolio, and sometimes relegated Baird to a secondary role in policy announcements. [ [ "Ontario Votes 2003"] , CBC, 2003] In November 2002, however, he was followed around the province by "Hydrozilla", a man in a giant lizard suit sent by the NDP as a stunt to show that deregulating electricity rates would create an economic monster for consumers. [Robert Benzie and Graham Richardson, "They're calling it 'Electrocution Week'", "National Post", 18 November 2002, A12.] In early March 2003, Baird announced that the government might be forced to implement rolling blackouts as a response to energy shortages. [John Spears, "Power supply woes loom?", "Toronto Star", 4 March 2003, A01.] He encouraged conservation in late summer 2003, following a province-wide blackout caused by a generator failure in the United States. ["Ontario averts new blackout, but hot weather stirs fears", "Winnipeg Free Press", 20 August 2003, A11.]

Opposition member

The Ontario Liberal Party won a majority government in the 2003 election, although Baird was comfortably re-elected in his own seat. Between 2003 and 2005, he served as Official Opposition critic for Finance, Culture, Francophone Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs and Health. He opposed the imposition of a health premium by Dalton McGuinty's government in 2004, charging that the Liberals broke an election pledge not the raise taxes. Baird and New Democrat Peter Kormos were vocal critics of Speaker Alvin Curling for allegedly favouring his Liberal colleagues, saying that he sanctioned Conservative and NDP members for behaviour he would allow from Liberals. At one stage, Baird described Curling's job performance as an "absolute disgrace." [Rob Ferguson, "New premium won't be listed separately on pay", "Toronto Star", 19 May 2004, A09; "'Dysfunctional' legislature shocks Tory", "CanWest News Service", 17 December 2004, A11.]

Baird co-chaired Jim Flaherty's second campaign to lead the Progressive Conservative party in the 2004. Flaherty was again unsuccessful, losing on the second ballot to the more centrist John Tory. [Ian Urquhart, "Tories are lining up to replace Eves", "Hamilton Spectator", 21 January 2004, A11.] Both Baird and Flaherty left provincial politics in 2005 to campaign for the federal House of Commons. [ [ "Canada Votes 2006 : "Candidates & Ridings"] , CBC, 2006] Although Baird was generally on the right-wing of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party, he expressed liberal views on some social issues. He supported same-sex marriage during the 2003 provincial election and, in 2005, helped the McGuinty government achieve quick passage of a provincial bill granting legal recognition to same-sex couples. Some Progressive Conservative MPPs openly criticized Baird on the latter occasion. [Karen Howlett, "Ontario approves same-sex law", "Globe and Mail", 25 February 2005, A9.]

Federal politics

Baird supported a Canadian Alliance candidate in the 2000 federal election, and later endorsed Stephen Harper's bid to lead the newly-formed Conservative Party of Canada in its 2004 leadership election. [Tonda McCharles, "Harper fast out of the blocks", "Toronto Star", 13 January 2004, A03.] He was subsequently appointed as the Conservative Party's Ontario co-chair for the 2004 federal election. [Robert Benzie and Susan Delacourt, "Tories must sustain their drive, Harper says", "Toronto Star", 6 June 2004, A08.] There were rumours that Baird would leave provincial politics to contest the 2004 election, but this did not happen. ["John Baird has decided not to go federal", "Broadcast News", 10 February 2004, 07:42 report.] In 2005, he resigned his provincial seat to campaign federally for the Conservative Party.

Baird won a contested nomination battle for Ottawa West—Nepean Conservative nomination on May 5, 2005, defeating challengers Ed Mahfouz, Margret Kopala and Ade Olumide. John Pacheco, a leader in the social conservative movement against same-sex marriage, had also sought the nomination but was disqualified due to past comments he had made alleging that homosexual practices posed a health risk. [ [ "Conservative Party Rejects Organizer of Huge Ottawa Marriage March As Potential Candidate"] , Lifesite news, 29 April 2005.] Pacheco later campaigned in the election as an "Independent conservative," with the specific intent of being a spoiler against Baird. He argued that if his campaign caused Baird to lose, the Conservatives would "get the message that social conservatives are serious about their politics." [Juliet O'Neill, "Social conservative runs as independent; hopes to spoil Baird's bid", "Ottawa Citizen", 30 December 2005, A6. [ 2005-DEC-24: Election campaigning ceases over Christmas] , Religious Tolerance.] Baird chose to ignore Pacheco entirely in at least one all-candidates debate. [Juliet O'Neill, "Baird's health-care stance draws fire in Ottawa West-Nepean", "Ottawa Citizen", 14 January 2006, A5.]

Baird was elected, defeating Liberal candidate Lee Farnworth by about 5,000 votes. The "Ottawa Citizen" endorsed Baird in this campaign, and argued that his political judgment had improved considerably since his tenure as a Harris cabinet minister. ["Baird is the clear choice", "Ottawa Citizen", 17 January 2006, B4.] In December 2006, Baird was one of thirteen Conservative MPs who voted against reopening the national debate on same-sex marriage. [Janice Tibbetts, "Same-sex debate put to rest: PM", "National Post", 8 December 2006, A1.]

Baird has played an aggressive role in Question Period since his appointment to cabinet, leading MP Garth Turner to describe him as Stephen Harper's "Commons pit bull". [Julie Smyth, "MP's camera goes where media can't", "National Post", 17 June 2006, A8.]

President of the Treasury Board

Baird was appointed President of the Treasury Board on February 6, 2006, a position that placed him in charge of the federal public service. Following his appointment, Baird said that one of his priorities would be to prevent government jobs from being relocated from Ottawa to other regions for political purposes. [Mohammad Adam, "PS jobs will stay in Ottawa, Baird vows", "Ottawa Citizen", 8 February 2006, A1.] He also indicated that his government was not planning to introduce job cuts or initiate a radical reduction in the size of government. [Kathryn May, "No cuts coming, Baird assures PS", "Ottawa Citizen", 7 February 2006, A4.] In June 2006, Baird announced the creation of a three-member panel to advise the federal government on grant and contribution programs and accountability issues. One of the members was Frances Lankin, a former New Democratic Party of Ontario cabinet minister. ["Independent blue-ribbon panel to advise on grant and contribution programs" [press release] , "Canada NewsWire", 6 June 2005, 04:15.]

Accountability Act

Baird introduced the Conservative government's first piece of legislation in April 2006. Known as the "Accountability Act," the bill includes 317 sections and promises significant reform to the structure of Canadian politics and government. Prime Minister Harper said that it would "put an end to the influence of money" in the Canadian government. The Accountability Act restricts the ability of former politicians and bureaucrats to become lobbyists, provides protection to whistle-blowers in the civil service and gives the Auditor General of Canada new powers of oversight. It also limits individual donations to political parties and candidates to $1,000 per year (down from $5,200), creates nine new or revised positions to oversee the activities of public officials and places crown corporations such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation under access-to-information legislation. [Allan Woods, "No more 'entitlements': PM", "National Post", 12 April 2006, A1.]

Opposition MPs complained that several recommendations for access-to-information reform were left out of the bill, and were instead sent to committee for further review. New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin initially suggested that this deferral could delay meaningful reform for the foreseeable future. [Kathryn May, "Tories back away from key plank in ethics bill", "Ottawa Citizen", 5 April 2006, A1; Jim Bronskill, "Government has second thoughts about access-to-information reforms", "Canadian Press", 11 April 2006, 16:39 report; John Ivison, "Reforms fall short of tory pledge", "National Post", 12 April 2006, A4.] Martin later made a deal with Baird to give the bill an easy passage through committee, in return for the Conservatives accepting some NDP amendments. [Bill Curry, "A handshake and a dance tame critic of ethics bill", "Globe and Mail", 19 June 2006, A4.]

Information Commissioner John Reid has criticized the new proposed powers for his department under the legislation, arguing that they will create unnecessary bureaucracy. [Kathryn May, "Watchdog blasts Tory reforms", "Edmonton Journal", 10 April 2006, A6.] Shortly after the Accountability Act was introduced to parliament, Reid issued an emergency report saying that the legislation would "increase the government's ability to cover up wrongdoing, shield itself from embarrassment and control the flow of information to Canadians". He added that no government had ever put forward "a more retrograde and dangerous" set of proposals for dealing with access to information laws. Baird described Reid's criticisms as "excessive," saying that most of the commissioner's specific concerns were minor in nature. ["Commissioner slams Harper for about-face on info access reform", "Canadian Press", 28 April 2006, 13:30 report.] Representatives of Canada's business community also expressed concern about changes to disclosure laws, arguing that their commercial secrets could be exposed to competitors. [Steven Chase, "Tories won't change course on lobbying rules", "Globe and Mail", 14 June 2006, B4.]

The bill passed the House of Commons on division in June 2006. The Canadian Senate approved it in December 2006, with several amendments, and sent it back to the Commons for further consideration. The amended act was approved by the Commons without debate on 8 December, ["Amended accountability act unanimously waived through Commons without vote", "Canadian Press", 8 December 2006, 14:40.] and was signed into law four days later. [ [ "Accountability Act signed into law"] , CBC, December 12, 2006 ]

Shortly after the bill first passed the Commons, Baird acknowledged that the Conservatives may have unintentionally broken political financing laws by failing to report convention fees collected in 2005. He told a Senate committee that $1.7 million was left unreported and that he did not realize it was an issue at the time. [Joan Bryden, "Tories may have taken in close to $2 million in illegal contributions", "Canadian Press", 28 June 2006, 21:00 report.] The matter is currently under review by the Chief Electoral Officer. The Conservatives quietly tabled an amendment to the Accountability Act in November 2006, stipulating that convention fees will not be counted as political contributions. ["Tories to amend law they're accused of breaking", "Kitchener-Waterloo Record", 18 November 2006, A3.]

Program cuts

In May 2006, Baird was asked to find $1 billion in cuts for 2006 and 2007. [Steven Chase, "Budget makes little headway toward reining in spending", "Globe and Mail", 3 May 2006, A18.] On September 25, on the same day that the government announced a $13.2 billion surplus, Baird announced cuts to sixty-six federal programs, including Status of Women, medicinal marijuana research, Canadian museums, adult literacy, youth employment and social development and the British Columbia pine beetle program. One of the most controversial cuts was to the federal Court Challenges Program, which provides funding for Canadians to pursue rights cases in the Canadian court system. [Steven Chase, "Ottawa's $2-billion hit list", "Globe and Mail", 26 September 2006, A1; Eric Beauchesne, "Flush feds 'trim fat': $13.2-billion surplus", "Montreal Gazette", 26 September 2006, A1; Carol Goar, "A slightly less 'Just Society'" [editorial] , "Toronto Star", 2 October 2006, A18.] Some critics argued that the cuts were ideological in nature, and would adversely affect the most vulnerable Canadians. Baird argued that government funding would be redirected in a way that "reflects the priorities of working families" and that he "just [didn't] think it made sense for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government's own laws in court." [Les Whittington and Bruce Campion-Smith, "Tories cut $1B despite surplus", "Toronto Star", 26 September 2006, A1; [ "Liberal programs axed under Tory spending cuts"] , "CTV News", September 26, 2006, accessed on September 26, 2006; John Sossin, "An axe that harms democracy" [opinion] , "Toronto Star", 28 September 2006, A23.] In justifying cuts to adult literacy programs, Baird referenced his government's support for youth literacy and said, "We've got to fix the ground level problem and not be trying to do repair work after the fact." [Carol Goar, "Tories misread literacy needs", "Toronto Star", 16 October 2006, A18.]

2006 Ottawa municipal election

In early October 2006, Baird's department reviewed a promised $200 million grant to the City of Ottawa's light-rail expansion project. Baird indicated that the government would keep the funding at least until the November election, but added that the Council elected in November will have the final say on the issue. [ [ No federal rail money before Ottawa election: Baird] , CBC Ottawa, October 11, 2006] He also leaked details of the city's contact with the German firm Siemens.Lawrence Martin, "Ottawa derailed by politics?", "Globe and Mail", 11 January 2007, A19.] As a result, the rail program became a focal issue in the 2006 Ottawa mayoral election and Baird's opponents accused him of trying to influence the outcome. [Mark Sutcliffe, "Baird becomes focus of race without being a candidate", "Ottawa Citizen", 8 October 2006, A9; Jake Rupert, "'I don't like being lied to,' Baird says", "Ottawa Citizen", 12 October 2006, C1.] Baird and Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli accused one another of lying about details of the project, [Patrick Dare, "Chiarelli slams Baird for 'lying to the public'", "Ottawa Citizen", 13 October 2006, F1.] and Liberal MP Navdeep Bains asked the Federal Ethics Commissioner to investigate Baird's decision to release details of the private contract. [ [ Chris Lackner & James Gordon, The Ottawa Citizen, "Liberal MPs want Baird investigated by ethics czar"] , "Ottawa Citizen" October 19, 2006; Chris Lackner and James Gordon, "Liberal MPs want Baird investigated by ethics czar", "Ottawa Citizen", 19 October 2006, C1.] Chiarelli was defeated in the election and the light-rail expansion was stopped by the new council. [Jake Rupert, "Council kills light rail, blames federal government", "Ottawa Citizen", 15 December 2006, A1.]

An "Ottawa Citizen" report in January 2007 revealed that federal officials had not posed any objections to the light-rail project before Baird's intervention, and suggested that his involvement was political in nature. [Mohammed Adam, "Baird's rail ruling was political, documents show", "Ottawa Citizen", 6 January 2007, A1. See also Ken Gray, "Mr. Baird's municipal preoccupation", "Ottawa Citizen", 26 January 2007, F4.] Green Party leader Elizabeth May speculated that Ottawa may have been deprived of light-rail service because of an apparent "personal vendetta" from Baird against Chiarelli. Baird denied this charge, saying that his intervention was not political. Opponents of the light-rail project have argued that it was undertaken without sufficient consultation with the public. In February 2008, it was reported that the House of Commons committee on government operations will be looking into his involvement over the case. MP and committee member Mark Holland mentionned a concern that Baird leaked information on the contract. Baird mentionned that he made the right decision and dismissed the investigation saying "there is no evidence of anything". Speaking to reporters he added following the announcement of the investigation: "If you want to avert a billion-dollar boondoggle, you have to make some difficult decisions". [ [ Commons committee to probe Baird's role in Ottawa civic election] , CBC Ottawa, February 6, 2008]

Other responsibilities

Baird holds ministerial responsibilities for the Toronto Harbourfront Centre and the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation. [Jennifer Lewington, "How to make friends and influence Ottawa", "Globe and Mail", 4 March 2006, M2.] He developed a working relationship with Toronto Mayor David Miller soon after his appointment, and was present for the announcement of a comprehensive new waterfront strategy in June 2006. Ontario cabinet minister David Caplan has described Baird as a champion of waterfront renewal and David Miller has described him as an ally of the city. [Kerry Gillespie, "Ottawa backs waterfront renewal", "Toronto Star", 28 March 2006, B1; Richard Brennan, "Wooing hearts... and votes", "Toronto Star", 28 May 2006, A6; ] Baird spent Christmas 2006 meeting with Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. [Brian Hutchinson, "Battle Expected To Intensify", "National Post", 26 December 2006, A1.]

Environment Minister

On January 4, 2007, Baird was appointed as Environment Minister in a cabinet shuffle, replacing previous Minister Rona Ambrose. In making the appointment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged that his government needed to do more to make the environment a priority. [Andrew Mayeda and Mike Blanchfield, "Harper shuffles the deck", "Ottawa Citizen", 5 January 2007, A1.] Some commentators remarked favourably on Baird's appointment, describing him as a strong communicator and negotiator. [L. Ian Macdonald, "Good fix, good fit: Harper's shuffle could solve his environmental image problem", "Montreal Gazette", 6 January 2007, B7.] Andrew Coyne, however, described Baird as "the man sent to kill the issue," suggesting that Baird's appointment was meant to neutralize the environment as an election issue rather than to initiate any meaningful reforms. [Andrew Coyne, "The man sent to kill the issue: Baird posting is all about appearances", "National Post", 5 January 2007, A1.] Baird is a vocal opponent of the Kyoto Protocol, which he argues will bring about an "economic collapse". [Dennis Bueckert, "Environment minister shows no sign of compromise on Kyoto Protocol", "Canadian Press", 8 February 2007, 18:04.] Later in 2007, he added that any new environmental agreements must included reduction targets for major greenhouse emitters such as China, India and the United States who have not signed the Protocol or does not have any mandatory reductions set by the Protocol. [ [ UN climate change conference hails Australia Kyoto signing, "CBC News", December 3, 2007] ] Baird met with renowned Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki following his appointment. Suzuki said he was encouraged by Baird's approach, but remained skeptical of the Harper government's environmental plans. ["Get moving on climate change, Suzuki urges", "Winnipeg Free Press", 12 January 2007, A13.]

Approach to the Kyoto Protocol

In February 2007, the Liberal opposition brought forward a non-binding motion for Canada to renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. All Conservative MPs who were present in the House, including Baird, voted against the motion, which passed with the support of the three opposition parties. [Mike de Souza, "Harper to ignore motion on reconfirming Kyoto", "National Post", 6 February 2007, A5.] The following month, opposition members on a special Commons committee used their majority to bring forward sweeping changes to the government's Clean Air Act. Among other things, the revised act called for participation in international carbon markets and the fulfillment of Kyoto targets. [Jennifer Ditchburn, "Opposition parties rewrite environmental bill", "Edmonton Journal", 30 March 2007, A6.] Baird indicated that the opposition's changes would not be included in federal targets or regulations.Mike De Souza, "Kyoto targets left out of Tories' clean air law", "Calgary Herald", 24 April 2007, D3.] Steven Chase, "Ottawa rolls out ‘validators' to bolster anti-Kyoto stand", "Globe and Mail", 19 April 2007, A1.]

In April 2007, Baird produced a federal study supported by five independent economists to support his approach to the Kyoto Protocol. Among the five economists was Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond, who also wrote a private letter to Baird arguing that the "economic cost [of implementing Kyoto] would be at least as deep as the recession in the early 1980s." Opposition parliamentarians dismissed the report as a scare tactic, while Liberal Environment Critic David McGuinty argued that the study was misleading, saying that it did not properly examine international emission trading and ignored jobs to be created through the "green economy". [Allan Woods, "Kyoto study raises alarm; Tories' dire economic warnings about swift emissions cuts dismissed by opposition as 'shock and awe' communications", "Toronto Star", 20 April 2007, A8.] The report misrepresented Canada's ability to invest in developing nations to meet emissions targets through CDM by misquoting the amount of credit to be 85 million instead of the real approximation of 3 billion. [] Soon after, a United Nations report also contradicted the study mentioning that "steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions can be accomplished at a cost of only 0.12 per cent of the world's annual economic output" but Baird responded that Canada will have its gas emissions levels peaked in 2012 three years before the UN's set target of 2015. [ [ UN report contradicts Baird claim that Kyoto equals economic devastation] , "Canadian Press", May 5, 2007 ]

Environmental strategy

Baird was the Harper government's representative at the release of a major United Nations report on climate change in Paris in February 2007. He described the report as a "turning point in the battle against climate change," while indicating his surprise that human activity was found to be a major cause of the phenomenon. [Kevin Dougherty and Mike de Souza, "Chirac calls for 'new industrial revolution'", "Montreal Gazette", 3 February 2007, A4.]

Baird released his government's targets for greenhouse gas emissions in late April 2007. The plan calls for Canada to begin cutting its existing rate of greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 and for cuts to reach 20% by 2020. Under this plan, Canada will reach its Kyoto targets between 2020 and 2025, taking an additional eight to thirteen years longer than Kyoto. The government plan uses production intensity targets instead of hard caps. Baird said that the "plan strikes a balance between the perfection some environmentalists may be seeking and the status quo that some in industry seek to protect." [ [ "Baird's 'real' emissions plan misses Kyoto deadline by years"] , CBC News, 26 April 2007, 20:58.] Later in December 2007, Baird revealed in a plan that over 700 big-polluter companies, including oil and gas, pulp and paper, electricity and iron and steel companies, must cut greenhouse emissions by six percent from 2008 to 2010 The companies would also have to produce an annual report every May 31st that would include data regarding the level of greenhouses emissions produced each year. [ [ "Baird unveils industry emissions cuts timetable"] , CTV News, 12 December 2007 ] Baird's proposal has been met with approval from Canada's oilpatch executives, who described them as the toughest emission regulations in the world, and who feared that more stringent standards would stifle oil sands exploration. [ [ James Stevenson, "Oilpatch calls new greenhouse gas emission regulations 'toughest' in the world"] , Canadian Press, 26 April 2007, 19:35.] [Paul Vieira and Claudia Cattaneo, "We can live with targets, business says", "National Post", 27 April 2007, A1.] Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has been considerably less critical than his brother, having earlier written to Prime Minister Harper on the environmental policy. The Premier had stressed the importance of a policy that considered the North American market as a whole, due to the automotive industry's importance to his province. McGuinty said the Conservatives' environmental plan could have gone further but described the auto emissions part of the plan as "very sensible". [ [ Ian Urquhart, "McGuinty mildly critical of federal green plan"] , [opinion column] , "Toronto Star", 30 April 2007. Urquhart drew attention to the different approaches taken by Dalton McGuinty and his brother, federal MP David McGuinty.]

Members of opposition parties have criticized the government's abandonment of Kyoto goals, while David Suzuki described the proposal as a "sham" with "weak targets". [Michael Oliveira, "Tory green plan is a 'sham,' angry Suzuki tells minister", "Hamilton Spectator", 28 April 2007, A5.] Former US vice president Al Gore said Baird's plan was a "complete and total fraud" that was "designed to mislead the Canadian people". [Kevin Donovan, "Gore calls green plan a 'fraud'", "Toronto Star", 29 April 2007, A2.] Baird responded by defending his plan and by criticizing Gore's environmental record, noting that no similarly stringent measures were passed during Gore's tenure in office and that the Kyoto Treaty was never submitted to the US Senate for ratification. [Andrew Thomson, "Green plan 'a total fraud': Gore; Criticism prompts Baird to attack former VP's own climate record", "Ottawa Citizen", 29 April 2007, A4. Baird and Gore had previously been involved in a public controversy in February 2007. During a parliamentary debate, Baird defended his government's environmental record by quoting Gore as saying that Canada was "showing moral authority to the rest of the world" in its policies on climate change. Gore responded that his comments were made to encourage the Harper government to participate in the Kyoto process, and said that Baird had "mischaracterized" his words by presenting them out of context. Baird has said that his comments were not misrepresentation. See "Al Gore says Canada's Tories misrepresented him", "Associated Press Newswires", 12 February 2007, 18:50; Gloria Galloway, "Tories twisted my words, Gore says", "Globe and Mail", 13 February 2007; Maria Babbage, "Federal environment minister says he didn't misrepresent Al Gore", "Canadian Press", 14 February 2007, 15:33.] The Liberal Party, led by MP Pablo Rodriguez, introduced to the House of Commons a private bill that would have forced Canada to comply to the Kyoto Treaty in response to the government's plan. While the bill passed Baird mentioned that, even though that the government wouldn't dismiss it, there was no new environmental measures planned. [ [ Tories won't dismiss Kyoto compliance law] , "CTV News", June 25, 2007] All three opposition parties have demanded that the environment becomes one of the main points of the government's Throne Speech in the 2007 fall session. [ [ "No 'poisoned pills' in throne speech: Ignatieff"] , CBC News, October 17, 2007]

Other policy initiatives

Shortly after his appointment, Baird, Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn announced $1.5 billion for clean-energy initiatives over the next decade. Baird and Lunn also announced a $230 million program for clean energy technology. Lunn said that "there were literally hundreds of programs but there was no focus" when the Conservatives took office. [ [ "Tories announce new funding for clean energy"] , CTV News, 17 January 2007, 23:19.] Critics argued that the new Conservative measures were similar to measures introduced by the Liberals in their 2005 budget. [Allan Woods, "Tories push $1.5B in green initiatives", "Toronto Star", 20 January 2007, A4.] Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has argued that the Conservative Party's strategy is too strongly focused on nuclear energy. [Alex Dobrota, "Ministers announce clean-energy research", "Globe and Mail", 18 January 2007, A4.]

On 12 February 2007, Baird appeared at a press conference with Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest to announce a $1.5 billion environmental fund for the provinces. [Philip Authier and Mike De Souza, "Harper launches $1.5B green fund for provinces", "Ottawa Citizen", 13 February 2007, A3.] Journalist Frances Russell criticized that as a reduction from the $3 billion promised by the previous Liberal government. [Frances Russell, "Mask slips off Tories' so-called shift to the centre", "Winnipeg Free Press", 14 February 2007, A13.]

In March 2007, Baird indicated that he wanted Canadian companies to be banned, or at least severely restricted, from participating in the international carbon market. Several European countries have already set up a trading system to allow companies that reduce their emission levels below government targets to sell "credits" on an international market. Environmentalists and many industry leaders have argued that Canada should adopt a similar policy, and opposition leader Stéphane Dion has argued that participation will allow Canadian firms to make "megatonnes of money". Baird described some carbon markets as "shaky," and argued that trade should be restricted to within Canada, or perhaps within North America. [Bill Curry and Gloria Galloway, "Baird wants ban or limits on carbon market", "Globe and Mail", 23 March 2007, A7.] In April, he indicated that Canadian businesses would soon gain the right to earn credits by investing in overseas environmental projects.

Baird defended the Conservative government's decision to cut funds for climate science research, arguing that further studies are largely superfluous in light of recent United Nations reports. Gordon McBean of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences has disagreed, claiming that further research is the best way to adapt to a changing climate. [Margaret Munro, "Time for a talk, climate scientist tells Baird", "Edmonton Journal", 10 April 2007, A8.] [Mike de Souza, "Ottawa neglecting science on global warming: experts", "Montreal Gazette", 11 April 2007, A15.]

Baird said in a House of Commons Committee that his government will not consider the implementation of a carbon tax. [Mike De Souza, "Tories won't charge carbon tax, Baird says", "Ottawa Citizen", 9 February 2007, A5.] He told that the government's approach "will be to provide regulation for industry to ensure we reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollutants" [ [ "No carbon tax, international carbon trading, Baird says"] , "CBC News", 8 February 2007, ]

While participating at the United Nations Summit On Climate Changes in Bali, Indonesia, Baird announced a $86 million funding to help Canadian communities notably coping with the lost of forests due to pine beetles in the west and infrastructures in the north due to softer soil. The 4-year plan included $56 million on several projects and $29 million for researches. [ [ Baird announces $85.9-million for climate change] , "The Canadian Press", December 10, 2007]

Offices held

*Elliott led a restructured Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services.

Electoral record

All electoral information taken from Elections Canada and Elections Ontario. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.

The 1999 and 2003 expenditure entries are taken from official candidate reports as listed by Elections Ontario. The figures cited are the Total Candidate's Campaign Expenses Subject to Limitation, and include transfers from constituency associations.


External links

* [ John Baird's official website]
* [ House of Commons webpage]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • John Baird — may refer to:*Sir John Baird, 2nd Baronet (1686–1745), a Scottish Member of Parliament for Edinburghshire *John Baird (revolutionary) (1790–1820), a commander in the Radical War of 1820 *Sir John Baird (admiral) (died 1908), a Victorian British… …   Wikipedia

  • Mike Allen (Canadian politician) — Michael Allen MP Member of the Canadian Parliament for Tobique Mactaquac Incumbent Assumed office 2006 Preceded by Andy Savoy …   Wikipedia

  • David Glass (Canadian politician) — For other people of the same name, see David Glass (disambiguation). David Glass Member of the Canadian Parliament for Middlesex East In office 1872–1874 Precede …   Wikipedia

  • Larry O'Brien (Canadian politician) — Infobox Politician name =Larry O Brien caption = Larry O Brien birth date =birth date and age |1949|07|19 birth place =Ottawa, Canada office = 58th Mayor of Ottawa 2nd Mayor of the new city term start = December 1, 2006 term end = 2010… …   Wikipedia

  • John Finlay (disambiguation) — John Finlay may refer to:*John Finlay, fur trader and explorer *John Finlay (Canadian politician) *John Baird Finlay, Dominican Republic born Canadian politician *Jack Finlay, Irish hurler;See also *John Finley (disambiguation) *John Findlay… …   Wikipedia

  • Baird (surname) — Baird is a common surname of primarily Scottish origins, although some historians claim the Bairds originally came to Scotland from France around the time of William the Conqueror. An old legend says that the family obtained their lands in… …   Wikipedia

  • John Diefenbaker — Diefenbaker redirects here. For other uses, see Diefenbaker (disambiguation). The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker PC, CH, QC …   Wikipedia

  • John A. Macdonald — For other people named John Alexander Macdonald, see John Alexander Macdonald (disambiguation). The Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald GCB KCMG PC …   Wikipedia

  • David Pratt (politician) — The Honourable David Pratt PC Minister of National Defense In office December 12, 2003 – July 19, 2004 Prime Minister Paul Martin …   Wikipedia

  • Green Party of Canada candidates, 2006 Canadian federal election — The Green Party of Canada ran a full slate of 308 candidates in the 2006 Canadian federal election. Some of these candidates have separate biography pages; relevant information about other candidates may be found here. The candidates are listed… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”