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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What John Baird's Resignation as Foreign Affairs Minister Means for Canada

Reports are all over the news this morning that Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will resign from Cabinet today and will be leaving politics. International Trade Minister Ed Fast will take over the Foreign Affairs portfolio, at least for the time being.

As far as Canadian Foreign Affairs policy goes, the change is only likely to mean a change in style but not substance. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a keen understanding of the directions he wants Canada to take in its dealings with the world, and regardless of who heads the Ministry, the Prime Minister will keep a firm hand on the tiller of the ship of state.

Baird's style was brash, blunt, and often confrontational, making him sometimes sound like the vocalization of the publicly staid Harper's unspoken thoughts.

Canadian foreign policy has shifted sharply during Baird's term in Foreign Affairs and that shift has pleased those who want Canada to take principled stands on global issues as much as it has infuriated those who wanted previous governments' stances of moral and cultural equivalence and equivocation.

Not since Brian Mulroney's Conservatives took the lead on opposition to South African Apartheid has Canada seen such international leadership in Foreign Affairs. Under Baird, Canada has stood at the forefront of its support for democratic Israel against the barbaric dictatorships that surround it in the middle east. Under Harper and Baird, Canada has been outspoken in his criticism of persecution of gays in Uganda and Russian expansionism in Ukraine.

The last few years and the Conservative government's policies have represented a drastic shift from a Foreign Affairs approach based on expediency to one based on principle. That shift has driven some people apoplectic with rage, particularly the apologists for Islamist totalitarianism that infest the media and academia. The government's approach has also presented tremendous difficulty for Canada's opposition parties in Parliament, who when attacking the government's policies often seem stupid, weak and confused.

That happened again just last week, when Justin Trudeau floundered and seemed almost incoherent in an interview with London radio host Andrew Lawton, in which the Liberal Party leader tried to play both sides of the issue of Canada's involvement in the fight against the terrorist Islamic State forces.

It took the Liberal Party's erudite Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau's forceful presentation to Parliament to salvage yet another of Trudeau's public blunders.

Garneau made it clear his party is behind the fight against ISIS, but wants the government to be forthright on what level of military support Canada provides. That left the NDP in a disadvantaged position of reinforcing the image of its leader Tom Mulcair, whose persona is one of a politician who is perpetually angry, reflexively obstructionist, and incapable of leadership in times of serious security challenges.

The change at the top post at Foreign Affairs also reiterates another advantage that the Conservative party has which the Liberals and NDP do not. That of having deep benches.

MPs like Jason Kenney, Chris Alexander, Lisa Raitt, and Tim Uppal, are all exceptionally bright and capable, each of whom could stand as national leaders in their own right.

NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie
The Liberals only have Marc Garneau, who is an outstanding, principled parliamentarian. But that of itself presents a problem for the Liberals, since every time Garneau speaks, he makes his own party leader look so much weaker, unintelligent, and incapable by comparison.  The Liberals' other supposed "stars" are gaffe-prone mediocrities like Andrew Leslie and Chrystia Freeland who only escape that characterization because of the little scrutiny they get from a sympathetic media. Worse still for the Liberals are the swarm of liabilities in their ranks of MPs and candidates, like Omar Alghabra, Darshan Kang, and Judy Sgro.

But that's nothing compared to the NDP, who have an intelligent and articulate if inconsistent leader in the person of Tom Mulcair, but effectively, the party has no one else ready for prime time.  The NDP has such a dearth of talent that it has had to employ utter dolts as its deputy leaders. It has the soon-to-retire Libby Davies from the west coast, who has made it her business to say idiotic things and champion deranged causes throughout her career. On the east coast, Mulcair's Deputy is Halifax MP Megan Leslie, whose level of seriousness might be suggested by the oral sex enhancer she had implanted in her tongue. As appealing a modification as that may be, it leaves something to be desired as a confidence-builder for national leadership.

Unfortunately for Mulcair, he has more than one MP in his caucus who has had their tongue pierced, but none who have done him the favor of having it totally surgically removed.

Despite John Baird's departure from Foreign Affairs, Canada will retain strength and good judgement in its international relationships and standing. The concern Canadians should have is the lack of gravitas and talent in our weak opposition parties should they ever form a government.

1 comment:

Skippy Stalin said...

Who is or isn't in Cabinet is immaterial, since Harper - like Trudeau Sr before him - controls everything the departments do out of the PMO. Ministers only become an issue when the fuck things up so totally that it becomes impossible to ignore. See Oda, Bev or Fantino, Julian.

Baird seems like a reasonable and decent enough guy, but this isn't like the Mulroney or even Chretien Cabinets, where the ministers actually mattered.