Thursday, January 04, 2007

Running Of The Bulls

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.


Godammitkitty said...

Great picture, Steve :) I was going to say that PMSH chose the most pugnacious MP for the portfolio, but then again...Harper keeps a lot of attack dogs. Baird is just the youngest and loudest of the Harris retreads.
Baird is clearly an F.U. to the opposition parties--I particularly can't see him playing nice with Layton, for e.g. Anyhoo--great post! GDK

Steve V said...

Hey Rebecca :)

Pugnacious is the word. I just caught the Bloc reaction to Baird and they referred to him as "loud" and "very confrontational".

wilson said...

Libs and Dippers wanted the environment front & center.
Well with Baird, you got what you asked for.
By the time the next election rolls around, Canadians will not be under any illusions about the Liberal, and specifically Dion's, record on the environment.

By the amount of Liberal posts on the choise of Baird, the fear is evident.

Anonymous said...

The opposition and media have been grumbling consistently about Ambrose not being able to get her message out to Canadians.

Now we have a minister who is totally capable of telling it clear and straight.

I look forward to the Baird directing this issue with a stronger hand, and actually getting some points out that need getting out.

What the environment ministry does *not* need now is to baby us all along the way. We are not looking for sensitivities, surely, are we?

Sensitivities to what...the oil/gas industry, or the auto sector, or the many power corps...

Isn't that what those in the opposition have been demanding?

I suspect they will see what it means to their wallet, and provinces for real now.

Now, are we all feeling warm and fuzzy inside. No matter, we need to get this done.

Anonymous said...

Harper is playing it like a bad hockey game - talent not needed, just a good goon squad.

The purpose of Baird in that portfolio is to get Dion. He will be attacking Dion, the Liberal leader - not rocket science here.

I hope Dion is ready for this man's flaring nostrils and snarling with those big front teeth.

Karen said...

Dion was just on cpac and in response to your comment anon, he said, if Mr. Harper brought Baird in to attack him, he's ready.

He also said, he'd give Baird the benefit of the doubt...perhap's he'll develop a new style.

Gotta love how he handles these questions. What's the word, oh yeah, civility.

Karen said...

wilson, Baird may be front and centre, he may articulate the message more clearly, but the real issue is the message isn't it?

That message comes from Harper. One of two things can happen. Harper can change the message, (in which case no credibility), or stay the course and have it articulated more loudly.

No fear here re' Baird. If he maintains his pit bull persona, he'll turn everyone off and will lend no substance to the file.

Scotian said...

You got it Steve; this is clearly a signal that appearances and not substance is what the Harper agenda for the environment file will be in 2007. Baird is by far and away the loudest mouthed partisan CPC MP in the Cabinet; this was clear watching him as Treasury Board President for those of us that actually sit through QP on a regular basis and not just the highlights. His appointment to this file shows that Harper recognizes the political potency of the environment issue in the public but thinks he can deal with it by tearing the other side down instead of by presenting an Climate change plan actually worthy of respect by the electorate and I think that will in the end fail. This may end up being seen down the road as a major strategic mistake by Harper but time will tell on that one.

Baird's style though may also end up hurting more than helping, especially if Dion is able to maintain his more civil form of challenging what his opposition says. This is a country that does not generally find appealing the type of confrontational rhetoric that is Baird's stock in trade. Combine that with his rather emotional nature while spewing his rhetoric and you have the increased chances that Baird will go too far (Anyone remember calling Martin a supporter of child porn in 2004 by Harper which the CPC thought was acceptable but the broad public thought was way out of line?) and not just put his (and the CPC's) foot in his mouth but get so carried away he opens his mouth to change feet.

We shall see, but I think that unless there is a real environment plan with real substantive targets for dealing with greenhouse gasses and not just air pollution in general this will end up being a failure by the CPC. The only way it works out with Baird in that position is with such a substantive plan and since that kind of plan would run opposite to pretty much everything the CPC has said on this issue for many years I rather doubt we will see this. After all CPCers swoon over decisiveness and not flip floppers, and given the effort many in the CPC machine have made in denouncing the seriousness of climate change as a real concern let alone political/election issue such a substantive 180 about face is unlikely. Mind you if it did happen the amount of crow these folks would and should be required to eat will be an amusing sight to behold but I rather doubt it will get to that point.

wilson said...

''No fear here re' Baird. If he maintains his pit bull persona, he'll turn everyone off and will lend no substance to the file.''

He got the Accountability Act thru parliament, with Liberals and the Liberal stacked Senate kicking & screaming all the way.

Baird does not have to make policy, Con policy is already on the table, his job will be to get results out of the ALL PARTY COMMITTEE, while the Libs and Liberal stacked Senate kick and scream all the while.

He will get the job done, and the NDP will be very influential in the result.
Lib 0
Green .5

Karen said...

wilson, I would agree that Baird was likely chosen as the one who get's things done.

The Accountability Act passed, but it is disingenuous to suggest that it was held up for the sake of it. Conservatives made many ammendments to it as well. The fact is, it was not written well, it was rushed and required ammending. Did he facilitate the process? Likely, but the public did not see that.

The Clean Air Act was also ill-conceived and rushed in...even Harper admits that it did not go far enough.

It's been a crazy day, so forgive me, but I'm not following your numbers at the end of your comment.

Btw, who is the conservative rep. on the "special committe" brought about by Layton?

Steve V said...

"the fear is evident"

Fear? Actually, when I heard all the names floated, from a purely partisan perspective, Baird was my hope. I won't rehash Scotian's points, but I don't think Canadians will take to the new minister. I saw Baird on television after the announcement, he looks perpetually angry.

I thought Dion did well today, and I particularly liked this description of Baird- "outrageous". This guy has a reputation as a highly partisan, confrontational, loud, combative pitbull. If this is the image Harper wants to project with a marquee posting, it may well come back to haunt him.

Scotian said...

One other thing to remember about Baird. It was Baird that let slip the fact that the CPC violated elections law regarding political contributions last June while testifying to a Senate committee about the Accountability Act. Which ended up resulting in the CPC's admission over Christmas that they broke the elections law in raising money and as a result in the last election fought it with illegally raised money. It would not surprise me to see Baird make an equally revealing slip about how the CPC really operates in this portfolio, especially when he gets onto his high horse as he did in that Senate hearing and lets his emotional excesses override his internal censors.

Steve V said...


I don't think Baird possesses the ability to censor himself. I can see occasions where his imflammatory rhetoric gets him into trouble.

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Hi Steve,

Harper's comments at yesterday's press conference seemed like an admission of how important the environment is to Canadians as a political issue. But if it were truly an admission, why appoint the pit bull to the minister? Baird's caustic demeanor suggests the opposite despite his apparent qualifications.

Steve V said...

tar heel

"Caustic" is another great term!