Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is stepping down from his position, CBC news reported Monday, adding that he will be replaced by current International Trade Minister Ed Fast.
The departure puts pressure on Stephen Harper’s Conservative government during an election year, leaving a major post unfilled and his cabinet short a politician with 20 years of service. Harper reportedly relied on Blair not just for his diplomatic work, but also for his reputation as an effective communicator in domestic politics. His departure comes one month after the resignation of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, another member of Harper’s inner circle.
“(Baird) had a successful career in both provincial and federal parliaments, this was simply the right time to move on,” a source close to Baird told The Toronto Star.
Baird joined the Progressive Conservative party’s youth wing and worked in the office of former cabinet minister Perrin Beatty. Baird was first elected in 2006 as a member of parliament after spending a decade in local Ontario politics. Baird quickly rose to become part of Harper’s inner circle and his time in Canadian politics has been seen as very productive.
When the current Conservative government was formed, Baird, then the president of the Treasury Board, was given the task of creating its first major piece of legislation, the Federal Accountability Act. As environment minister, he helped Canada leave the Kyoto Protocol, and while in charge of transport and infrastructure, he was responsible for bringing in large stimulus packages during an economic recession.
And, during his tenure as foreign affairs minister, Baird was known for coordinating Canada’s responses to world crises, including the war in Libya, the crisis in Ukraine and Palestine’s bid for statehood. His resignation comes days after he tried to negotiate the release of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy.
A friend of Baird's told the Ottawa Citizen that he is not leaving for any particular job, but would enter the private sector. “He’s at the perfect age and in the perfect place to make a move.”
The Conservative party will seek re-election in the fall, with the votes set to be cast in October.