Recently in the House, when, at the end of question period, the Bloc Québécois’s André Bellavance asked the government about its plans for spending cuts, it wasn’t immediately clear who among the Tories would take the question—so ensued five or 10 seconds of awkwardness, until Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, despite having no responsibility in this regard, and without benefit of script, leapt up and spun a vague but applicable response: “Mr. Speaker, we are obviously seeking to ensure that every dollar of taxpayer money is spent wisely,” he intoned.
Not his finest hour, but in such workaday moments a man’s mettle is revealed: Baird is a masterful, and enthusiastic, orator. “The first rule of Canadian politics is, never ask him a question, because you’re going to get your head handed to you,” says NDP MP Pat Martin. “You couldn’t actually maintain that level of choleric, or it would eat you alive,” says Martin, who knows of bombast and faux indignation, as evidenced by last week’s profane Twitter tirade.
Baird enjoys repartee with Martin; other MPs, not so much. “When I was government House leader and taking questions for the PM, I would always dread when I looked across the aisle to see Michael Ignatieff wasn’t there—and Bob Rae was,” he says. Baird, for his part, admires Ronald Reagan’s speaking style, but is in private more likely to quote The Simpsons.
RUNNER UP: Pat Martin