Stephen Harper is losing one of the key members of his team, with news Tuesday that John Baird, the foreign affairs minister, is resigning.
Baird, one of the prime minister’s most trusted ministers, rose in the House of Commons Tuesday morning to announce that he was stepping down from cabinet and as MP for the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean.
Baird’s resignation will take effect in the coming weeks.
Sources close to Baird say that after two decades in public office, it was simply time to seek other opportunities in the private sector, the CBC reported.
Keith Leslie, a Canadian Press reporter at Queen’s Park who has covered Baird’s career since 1995, told Humber News that his resignation did not come as a total surprise to him.
“He’s been talking about stepping down for six, seven months now,” he said. “He told some of my colleagues that the grind was getting hard for him.”
In his speech, Baird recalled his career as a cabinet minister in both Ottawa and at Queen’s Park.
“I was perhaps just a little naive, driven by ideology, defined by partisanship, at the age of 25,” Baird told the Commons.
“I quickly learned though to make a difference, to really make a difference, you can’t be defined by partisanship, nor by ideology,” he said, adding, “you need instead to be defined by your values.”
Baird has served as a part of the government since 2006, taking on such high-profile portfolios as Minister of the Environment, Minister of Transportation, and Government House Leader, where he was responsible for pushing the government’s legislation through a fractious minority parliament.
His stint as environment minister was controversial, as activists claimed he was not doing enough to combat climate change.
Born in Nepean, Ont., he has been involved in politics since age 16, when he was the youngest delegate to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s 1985 leadership convention.
He was first elected to public office in 1995 when he won a seat in the Ontario Legislature. He was a key player in Mike Harris’ provincial PC government before entering federal politics.
Leslie noted that Baird, along with the late Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement, were three ministers that came from Queen’s Park that seemed to earn Harper’s trust.
In a statement released shortly before Baird’s speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanked Baird for his service.
“Parliament was better for his presence, the country better for his service,” Harper said. “His many achievements will be honoured and remembered.”
Opposition politicians praised Baird for putting foreign affairs above partisanship.
“As passionate as he can get, as partisan as he can get, and he can, he is also someone who reaches out,” said NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar in the House of Commons. “He is also someone who understands the importance of getting things done.”
His resignation was met with well wishes by politicians from across the political spectrum.
— Stephen Harper (@stephenharper) February 3, 2015
We all thank John @Baird for his many years of service. An admirable opponent who leaves the House with the respect of all Members.
— Tom Mulcair (@ThomasMulcair) February 3, 2015
Thanking @Baird for two decades of dedicated public service. Wishing him all the best in his future endeavours.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 3, 2015
— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) February 3, 2015
I thank John @Baird for his service. We've always worked together when we agreed & debated passionately when we didn't. I wish him the best
— Paul Dewar (@PaulDewar) February 3, 2015
Wishing my good friend @Baird all the best as he moves forward into the next chapter of his life and thank him for his service to Canada!
— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) February 3, 2015