John Baird (Canadian politician)

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John Baird (born May 26, 1969 in Ottawa, Ontario) is a Canadian politician. He is currently a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Nepean—Carleton for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Baird is nicknamed "Rusty", a shortened version of his middle name.

Baird was President of the youth wing of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in the late 1980s, and supported Dennis Timbrell in his unsuccessful bids to lead the provincial party. He was educated at Queen's University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1992. Prior to being elected in the 1995 provincial election, Baird worked on the political staff of Perrin Beatty when he was federal Minister of National Defence, and followed Beatty through subsequent cabinet shifts culminating in becoming Secretary of State for External Affairs in the short-lived government of Kim Campbell. Baird, at this time, was considered a moderate, even a Red Tory.

Between the defeat of the federal Tory government in November 1993, and his own election in June 1995, Baird worked as a lobbyist in Ottawa.

Baird was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995, representing Nepean. At the time, he was the youngest member of the legislature. He joined the Cabinet of Premier Harris on June 17, 1999 as Minister of Community and Social Services where he became responsible for implementing the workfare program. As one of Harris' only bilingual ministers, he also became Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs. At the time, he again made history as the youngest member of the Cabinet. On February 8, 2001, he was also given ministerial responsibility for Children.

In his capacity as Social Services Minister, Baird became notorious for a staged media event in which he removed a welfare cheque from a box filled with (sterilized) syringes, implying that many welfare recipients in Ontario were using government money to fund their drug habits.

Baird supported Jim Flaherty's bid to succeed Harris in the PC Party's 2002 leadership election. He was demoted to government whip (though still retaining ministerial responsibility for Francophone Affairs) on April 15, 2002 when Flaherty's rival, Ernie Eves, succeeded Harris. On August 22, 2002, he returned to prominence as Minister of Energy and government house leader. Baird survived the Liberal landslide victory in the 2003 Ontario election, and sits with the Conservatives on the parliamentary opposition benches as the Conservative Health critic.

Baird is generally on the right wing of the party, having endorsed the federal Canadian Alliance before its merger with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. He is less conservative on social issues, and has expressed his public support for same-sex marriage during the 2003 provincial election. Nevertheless, he supported social conservative Jim Flaherty's candidacy for party leadership in 2002 and again in 2004.

There was some speculation that Baird would run for the Conservative Party of Canada in the Canadian election of 2004, but this did not come to pass.

During Stephen Harper's 2004 campaign for the federal Conservative leadership, and during the Conservative's 2004 election campaign, Baird served as the co-chair for Ontario.

On May 5, 2005, Baird won a contested nomination battle for the federal Conservative nomination in Ottawa West—Nepean, defeating challengers Ed Mahfouz, Margret Kopala and Ade Olumide with 56% of the vote. The riding is currently held by Liberal Marlene Catterall who has announced she will not be running for re-election.

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