John Baird steps into the fast lane

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DIspatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

It was big news for a day, John Baird’s retirement from politics. Apparently few observers saw it coming, but everyone was quick to respond with praise for Baird’s accomplishments and his long career in federal
politics, especially representing the national

DIspatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

It was big news for a day, John Baird’s retirement from politics. Apparently few observers saw it coming, but everyone was quick to respond with praise for Baird’s accomplishments and his long career in federal
politics, especially representing the national
capital (and the NCC) in the federal cabinet. All parties spoke highly of the foreign minister.
Of course they did. They always speak highly of one of their associates who steps sideways into the business world, after building up a career-full of “useful” contacts and “important” knowledge about who decides what within the federal government. I am sure when Tony Clement finally steps down, he’ll get praise, too, although it’s darned hard to think of anything to praise in his long and ungraceful career. 
Baird is different . . . or, is he? What exactly has he accomplished? Yes, he lobbied for the city of Ottawa within the cabinet – we take this on the mayor of Ottawa’s word. Sort of like Mr. Cannon lobbying for the Pontiac, silently and invisibly?
Baird’s crowning accomplishment, apparently, was his appointment as Canada’s foreign affairs minister. So it should be easy to pick out a few big accomplishments. Let’s see . . . the Ukraine, that happened during his watch, but, funny, we never heard more than a bark from Baird here. It was the Prime Minister’s show, defending freedom and confronting a semi-
dictator. 
OK, what about our forces in Poland, again confronting the Russian bear? Harper’s file, too. Ebola, the Philippines typhoon, any big contribution here? Then there was the invasion of Libya and the subsequent
collapse of all law and order in that dictatorial but once-stable nation . . . anyone recall hearing Baird on that intervention? He murmured, echoing his boss, but any original contribution?
Maybe he didn’t want to have his name associated with that debacle.
Today’s big story is Syria, Iraq and ISIS – we have troops in a shooting war, yet, mainly silence from our Foreign Minister. Odd? Maybe he’s resigning in protest over his government’s
 tin-pot aggressiveness? 
Who would know?
The point is not
if Baird accomplished
anything we’ll recall in six months – it is common practise to praise any outgoing politician. Nothing but praise. The minister is, we hear, about to take on board room seats in Bay Street. To his marvellous ministerial pension, he will now add a six-figure retainer or salary. There’s an accomplishment.
Praise, thanks, best wishes . . . but what if any politician has made major mistakes, even committed war crimes, as in Libya? What if he or she has caused damage to citizens or other peoples in our name? What if those mistakes are being paid for with our taxes? Shouldn’t we have a right to balance the books at the end? We are paying, after all.
Shouldn’t politicians be held to review for their major and avoidable gaffes or awful decisions? Why not? I would be in my career; so would you, dear reader. Are cabinet ministers above morality and accountability?
That’s a real and
important question.
Wouldn’t it be fair to have every exiting politician’s career examined, not with a microscope, but in broad strokes? Graft and corruption are sometimes a matter for the RCMP. Sometimes not. In fact, usually politicians are long retired or are deep in their corporate director’s seats when the media notices something wasn’t quite right, some figures didn’t quite add up – or funds were diverted. Why do politicians get this free ride in terms of their actions?  Because they make the rules?