Harper's selection of John Baird to replace Rona Ambrose tells us a great deal about the government's real motivations. If, as the rhetoric suggests, the Conservatives "welcome" the opportunity to work with other parties in crafting a revised Clean Air Act then why pick the most partisan pitbull available? When diplomatic skill and nuance is required, the selection of a belligerent windbag seems odd, unless of course you really aren't interested in finding common ground.
Baird receives lots of accolades from the media as an effective debater in the House of Commons. No doubt, Harper sees Baird as capable in fending off opposition attacks. However, you have to wonder how Canadians will react to Baird as he now moves to center-stage. I don't see Baird's act as particularly attractive to the general public, especially on a file that demands some sensitivity.
The only way the Conservatives salvage their trainwreck Clean Air Act is if they develop a conciliatory tone. Obviously Harper calls the shots, but Layton can hardly be encouraged to see Baird as the pointman for negotiations. Baird's appointment tells the opposition that Harper is ready for a fight and may be more interested in appearances than substance. Is it important to get real results for Canadians or chastise Dion for the Liberal past? Baird is an attack-dog, putting him in this file sends the clear message that we should prepare for a loud, boisterous debate that will attempt to confuse with volume and one-liners. If Harper was really interested in a bi-partisan solution on the environment, then surely there were more suitable people available.