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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 Kingstonmarker's Queen's Universitymarker, 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 was sworn in as Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communitites, replacing Lawrence Cannon, on October 30, 2008, in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Baird had held the post of Minister of the Environment since Prime Minister Harper's cabinet reshuffle of January 2007. 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 to 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 has been 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.

Since his beginning in the political ranks, Baird has been well known for being combative in many subjects in both the provincial and federal 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 been opposed to the Kyoto Protocol which Canada had previously ratified.

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. 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. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Studies from Queen's Universitymarker in 1992.

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 1993 government of Kim Campbell. After the defeat of the federal Progressive Conservatives in the 1993 federal election, Baird worked as a lobbyist in Ottawa.

Baird claims to have been a vegetarian since 1997. However, he admits to eating fish, and he is also reported to have eaten seal meat on a trip to the Arctic in 2009.

He had a pet grey tabby cat named Thatcher; when the cat died on November 10, 2009, a message sent by Baird using his Blackberry which said "Thatcher has died" resulted in a false rumour to the effect that Margaret Thatcher had died. In June 2008, he was selected by the Ottawa Business Journal as a recipient of the "Forty Under 40" award.

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.

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. He was easily re-elected in 1999 defeating future Ottawa councillor Gord Hunter by a margin of almost 15,000 votes

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. As one of Harris's few bilingual ministers, he was also named as Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs.

1999

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. A number of media reports subsequently criticized both the principle and the implementation of workfare in Ontario.

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. 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%.

Baird came under criticism in late 1999 for refusing to cancel a five-year contract that had been signed between his department and the Bermudamarker-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. 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. In response to opposition questions, Baird said that he would not terminate the contract but would endeavour to negotiate a lower rate. Baird opposed the Harris government's plan to amalgamate the city of Ottawa with neighboring municipalities, which was approved by the Legislature in 1999.

2000

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. Three months later, he added that anyone convicted of welfare fraud would run the risk of being given a lifetime ban from the program. Critics of this approach suggested that the Harris government was overstating the extent of fraud in order to undermine public confidence in welfare programs. In mid-year, Baird announced that workfare placements had reached departmental quotas for most of the province.

Baird revealed a $50 million program in May 2000 to help people with developmental disabilities become integrated into their communities. 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". Later in the year, Baird stated that his department would spend $26 million on shelters and other funding for the homeless.

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%. 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.

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. The Speaker of the Ontario Legislature subsequently ruled that the site content was inappropriate and it was removed with an apology from the government. The drug-testing plan was never fully implemented.

2001-02

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. He later announced that provincial welfare applicants would be required to pass a literacy test. The Harris government's welfare policies were put under scrutiny in August 2001 after a pregnant woman in Sudburymarker, 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. He also defended his government's general policy on welfare issues. 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.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. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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.

As Energy Minister, Baird was initially entrusted with implementing the government's plan to sell off part of Ontario's Hydro One. 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. Rates remained high through the autumn, and the Eves government was forced to re-regulate the market in November by introducing a price cap. 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.

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. 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. In early March 2003, Baird announced that the government might be forced to implement rolling blackouts as a response to energy shortages. He encouraged conservation in late summer 2003, following a province-wide blackout caused by a generator failure in the United States.

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."

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. Both Baird and Flaherty left provincial politics in 2005 to campaign for the federal House of Commons. 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.

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. He was subsequently appointed as the Conservative Party's Ontario co-chair for the 2004 federal election. There were rumours that Baird would leave provincial politics to contest the 2004 election, but this did not happen. 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. 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." Baird chose to ignore Pacheco entirely in at least one all-candidates debate.

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. In December 2006, Baird was one of thirteen Conservative MPs who voted against reopening the national debate on same-sex marriage.

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".

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. He also indicated that his government was not planning to introduce job cuts or initiate a radical reduction in the size of government. 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.

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 promised 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 claims to restrict 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 $1,100 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.

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. 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.

Information Commissioner John Reid has criticized the new proposed powers for his department under the legislation, arguing that they will create unnecessary bureaucracy. 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. Representatives of Canada's business community also expressed concern about changes to disclosure laws, arguing that their commercial secrets could be exposed to competitors.

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, and was signed into law four days later.

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. 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.

Program cuts

In May 2006, Baird was asked to find $1 billion in cuts for 2006 and 2007. 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. 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." 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."

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. He also leaked details of the city's contact with the German firm Siemens. 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. Baird and Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli accused one another of lying about details of the project, and Liberal MP Navdeep Bains asked the Federal Ethics Commissioner to investigate Baird's decision to release details of the private contract. Chiarelli was defeated in the election and the light-rail expansion was stopped by the new council.

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. 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 mentioned a concern that Baird leaked information on the contract. Baird mentioned 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".

Other responsibilities

Baird holds ministerial responsibilities for the Toronto Harbourfront Centre and the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation. 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. Baird spent Christmas 2006 meeting with Canadian soldiers in Afghanistanmarker.

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. Some commentators remarked favourably on Baird's appointment, describing him as a strong communicator and negotiator. Columnist 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. Baird is a vocal opponent of the Kyoto Protocol, which he argues will bring about an "economic collapse". 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. Baird met with renowned Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki following his appointment. At the time, Suzuki said he was encouraged by Baird's approach, but remained skeptical of the Harper government's environmental plans. However, when Baird unveiled the Conservative government's plan in April, 2007, Suzuki confronted Baird, calling the plan "a disappointment".

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. 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. Baird indicated that the opposition's changes would not be included in federal targets or regulations.

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". 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.

Environmental strategy

Baird was the Harper government's representative at the release of a major United Nations report on climate change in Parismarker 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.

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." 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'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. 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".

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". Former US vice president Al Gore said Baird's plan was a "complete and total fraud" that was "designed to mislead the Canadian people". 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. 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. 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.

Environmental record

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. Critics argued that the new Conservative measures were similar to measures introduced by the Liberals in their 2005 budget. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has argued that the Conservative Party's strategy is too strongly focused on nuclear energy.

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. Journalist Frances Russell criticized that as a reduction from the $3 billion promised by the previous Liberal government.

Canada is a signatory to the Kyoto protocol which legally requires signatory countries to set up compatible carbon trading markets. In direct defiance of this international legal obligation, 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. Many industry leaders argued that Canada should adopt a similar policy. Then opposition leader Stéphane Dion argued that participation will allow Canadian firms to make "megatonnes of money". Baird however described some carbon markets as "shaky," and argued that trade should be restricted to within Canada, or perhaps within North America. In April, he indicated that Canadian businesses would soon gain the right to earn credits by investing in overseas environmental projects. Baird's attitudes to carbon markets confused (and later directly contradicted) the government's own stated position to support the development of markets that were compatible with all its trading partners.

Baird defended another Conservative government 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.

Baird said in a House of Commons Committee that his government would not consider the implementation of a carbon tax. 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"

Bali

While participating at the United Nations Summit On Climate Changes in Bali, Indonesiamarker, 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's performance overall was profoundly criticized, including receiving a "fossil award" from attending NGOs, and prompting an unusually angry condemnation by the representative from Bangaladeshmarker, a nation very threatened by climate change related disease and flooding. He did not mention Baird by name but clearly implied that Canada, the US and Australia conspired to cause immense harm to his people and country by inaction, inexcusable in richer countries.

Canadian NGOs also uniformly condemned Baird's position, that of the government, that serious limitations on greenhouse gases would have to include China, India and other emerging nations before the richer nations that had already undergone most of their development would begin to reduce greenhouse gases. This condition directly contradicted Kyoto's explicit condition that developed nations should be willing to start first and pay up to fifteen times more per person to prevent climate change, given that they had benefitted from centuries of free atmospheric access and could not impose charges for dumping in that same atmosphere on emerging countries.

Baird was heavily criticized by parties and observers for obstructing progress on what was to become 'the Bali Action Plan' . Baird skipped out on a meeting in which he was scheduled to explain Canada's controversial climate change policies, after quickly glancing into the room and seeing many unhappy young Canadians sitting among an international audience of media and government officials. The Bali Action Plan, a key step towards a global international climate agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen in 2009, was obstructed during final negotiations by Canada and the U.S. the final Saturday. "This particular government has been a government of skeptics," said Mr. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

In November 2008 Baird was replaced in the Environment portfolio by Jim Prentice and moved to Minister of Transport.

Draft Baird Movement

In late November and early December 2008, a website went online allegedly representing a movement to draft Baird for leader of the Conservative Party, in the face of Stephen Harper facing possible defeat by an opposition coalition.

The draft group allegedly comprises over 100 party members from across the country — including two MPs and one Senator (who have requested anonymity). Since launching the Draft John Baird campaign site in early December, the campaign says it had nearly 3,000 visitors and 237 new supporters in less than ten hours.

Comments on the 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute

In December, 2008, the Government of Canada was faced with the threat that a coalition of opposition parties would vote against the budget, displaying a lack of confidence in the Government of Canada, and possibly resulting in a dissolution of Parliament. To save itself from defeat, one option was for the Government of Canada to request that the Governor General of Canada, the Canadian Monarch's representative, prorogue Parliament. In that context, John Baird announced that the Government of Canada wanted to exercise a more extreme option to "... go over the heads of the members of Parliament; go over the heads, frankly, of the Governor General; go right to the Canadian people." The interviewer, Don Newman, countered Baird's views with the view that "...in a British Parliamentary system, it is only legitimate for the government to be the government if it can sustain support in the house of commons." In the end, neither Baird nor the Conservative Government needed to go "over the heads... of the Governor General" since, after consulting with the Prime Minister for more than two hours December 4, 2008, the Governor General granted Prime Minister Harper's request for prorogation. Parliament was prorogued until January 26, 2009 by an act of the Canadian Monarch, saving the Government from a possible defeat by elected representatives.

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.

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