Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pitbull neutered?

Perhaps my least favourite conservative politician after the racist Rob Anders is John Baird--a swaggering bully who first came to national prominence as an Ontario provincial Cabinet minister under the Mike Harris regime. As Minister of Community and Social Services, he publicly derided the poor, established snitch lines to spy on them, and wildly overstated "welfare fraud" by lumping in cases of administrative error. He was, in other words, a rising young star of conservative sado-politics.

In the Harper government, he has been true to form, becoming widely known as Harper's pitbull. Indeed, the resemblance is striking.

But now, it seems, the dogcatcher may have finally chased him down. According to
a front-page story in today's Ottawa Citizen, we learn that Baird, who is said to have stuck his muzzle well into the last Ottawa municipal election on behalf of his buddy Larry O'Brien (now Mayor), is under investigation by a House of Commons Committee for political interference.

Ontario provincial police have twice questioned Baird about a meeting with O'Brien that was alleged to have taken place at Hy's Steakhouse during the municipal campaign, where, inter alia, it has been claimed that the matter of a patronage appointment for unsuccessful mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea came up. O'Brien is now being prosecuted for bribery and influence-peddling. Baird is expected to be called to testify at that criminal trial.

Baird was the federal Treasury Board minister at the time of the Ottawa election. Of ten Treasury Board grants before him, only a grant for light rail was held up.
(The whole issue of light rail is well-canvassed here.) Then-mayor Bob Chiarelli, a man with close Liberal ties and a strong supporter of light rail, was doing poorly in the polls, and hoped that the approval of the grant would help him. After the hold-up, he went down in flames. Light rail was opposed by O'Brien, who led an Ottawa City Council vote to abandon it: Ottawa is now being sued by the contractor for hundreds of millions of dollars for breach of contract, and is likely to lose. Too bad we taxpayers couldn't have spent all that money on light rail.

The outcome of these things is never certain. But one can still dream, even in the third year of the Harper mandate. Forward with that investigation! It simply couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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