Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Jeffrey Simpson's Eulogy for John Baird

John Baird got out while the getting was good.  According to The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson, Baird's departure won't leave much of a vacuum.

His departure weakens a cabinet of distinctly modest talents, and further shrinks the influence of the old Mike Harris Conservatives in what is essentially a modernized Reform Party government.

...Mr. Baird did not make Canadian foreign policy; he certainly was not a foreign policy expert or thinker. He executed foreign policy as conceived by the Prime Minister with whom he shared a common perspective on the world.

He leaves the foreign affairs ministry with morale at rock-bottom. Diplomats despaired at the idiosyncratic nature of the government’s foreign policy, the selling of Canadian embassies abroad, the petty rules imposed on entertaining abroad, parties he organized for friends at Canadian missions, the rejection of speeches prepared by the department, but more than anything else the impulsive and ideological directives imposed, often on short notice, by the youthful enthusiasts in Mr. Baird’s office.

But, of course, Mr. Baird and his staff would reply that the ministry remains full of Pearsonian internationalists more intent on saving the world and being nice to everyone than pursuing Canada’s national interests. Many are the examples of this tension, but nowhere was this more evident than in the Middle East, where the government’s absolute fidelity to every jot and tittle of Israel’s behaviour – rewarded by a massive swing to the Conservatives among Jewish voters – drove seasoned diplomats to distraction.

Indeed, in every portfolio, it is hard to think of where Mr. Baird left an imprint, except stylistically. He executed the government’s first major piece of legislation, the Accountability Act, the outline of which had figured in the Conservative platform as an antidote to alleged corruption under the Liberal government. It turned out to be a massive piece of legislation that spawned new agencies and expanded others, required new paperwork burdens and generally increased inefficiency in exchange for putative gains in probity.

At environment, like all holders of this portfolio, Mr. Baird ragged the puck, since the government had little interest in the file. There, his rhetorical abilities came in handy, when he blunted all attacks with fusillades of indignation.

Mr. Baird was given a somewhat longer leash as a minister than most in this highly centralized government, perhaps because he had earned respect as a faithful and effective public advocate for the government’s positions. Still, his latitude was always limited, for such is the nature of this government, so it would have been difficult for him, as for any minister, to leave a substantive mark, as opposed to a rhetorical one.


Anonymous said...

Simpson wrote an apt requiem of the career of another very partisan implementer of the Harper policies (or lack thereof).

I had not realized he was just a B.A. in political studies, not even a lawyer. But at least he managed to stay on in Queens, unlike his boss who left/had to leave U. of Toronto after just 2 months.

Then there was this: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/baird-stayed-at-official-residences-on-london-nyc-vacations-1.1385136

Perhaps the recent reception he got in Gaza where he was egged and shoed must have led him to realize that he was fortunate in that incident because there were no handy closets for him to dive into (I know, he had got out of one years ago, Lol).

Happy days for many of the non Cons in his riding who had tried to organize to boot him out.

the salamander said...

.. after the showers of echolades
the misremembering of Baird wonderfullness
it was refreshing to connect with reality
and your notes per Jeffrey Simpson
as Dear John goes off to spend time with his family
that he seems to share with virginal Rob Anders
and Jason Kenney.. ie leveraged Laureen
& maybe Ray Novak or the chinchilla or Lecce

Baird was the go go guy for prorogues
'we'll go over the heads of everyone !!'

Maybe tomorrow, Canadians will shake their heads
or years from now. But he funneled the $$ to Tony Clement per G20, pimped for Fantino in Vaughn & hid out during the Election Fraud- fraud .. and that's just for starters..

Sorry to say.. Baird is & was a Harper creep
Stood n applauded every QP lie deny deceit conceit

Beijing York said...

Dewar and Garneau were in fine form praising this blowhard Bam Bam for pretending to be a man of the world. As sickening as that performance was, the opposition standing in line to let the Canadian Patriot Act pass without a whimper of dissent was even more pathetic.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Sal, Simpson did take the shine off Baird's apple and it needed doing. He'll now have to circulate through new corridors where bombastic snarling will only get him removed.

@ BY - I agree. Both opposition parties have succumbed to Harper's manipulations. There's no room for principle when you're consumed measuring the potential electoral consequences of your every step. Our closet-ducking prime minister boasted that Canadians would not be intimidated only he knew that didn't apply to the opposition.