POLITICS

John Baird Resigning As Foreign Affairs Minister, Sources Say

02/02/2015 09:32 EST | Updated 02/03/2015 05:59 EST
CP

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is expected to resign from his position this week, sources confirm to The Huffington Post Canada.

An announcement could come as early as Tuesday, CBC News reports.

UPDATE: Baird has announced he is leaving federal politics.

Baird, 45, has held a number of high-profile portfolios in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet since Conservatives won government in 2006, including Treasury Board president, environment, and transport. He was promoted to foreign affairs after the 2011 election.

Baird has represented the Ontario riding of Ottawa West–Nepean for nine years but has reportedly told his staff he will not run in the next federal election, scheduled for October 19 of this year. The Canadian Press reports International Trade Minister Ed Fast appears poised to take over as acting foreign minister.

A source told HuffPost that Baird has accepted a job in the private sector.

Baird may be stepping down quickly to avoid perceptions of a conflict of interest. Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, who formerly served as Harper's environment minister, also resigned from cabinet after accepting a job with CIBC in 2010 and discussing the matter with the ethics commissioner. Baird ended up acting as Prentice's replacement for a short while.

When the news broke Monday night, some speculated the move could be related to former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd's recent musings that he wants Baird to help him reform the United Nations World Health Organization. Rudd, the head of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, met with Baird in Ottawa last week.

A politician for most of his adult life, Baird was first elected to the Ontario legislature at the age of 26 and served at Queen’s Park from 1995 to 2005. He held portfolios in the cabinets of premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

Some believed Baird was interested in running for the leadership of the Ontario PCs but the deadline to join the race passed last Friday at noon.

Baird is the second key member of Harper's cabinet to resign in a year. Jim Flaherty stepped down as finance minister last March and passed away in April.

Baird's departure also comes at a less-than-ideal time for Harper. An effective communicator and veteran parliamentarian, Baird could have been counted on to help the government score some political points with the recently tabled anti-terrorism bill and evolving mission against ISIS.

His exit could also put another riding in play with a federal election just months away. Ottawa West-Nepean was held for years by the Liberals until Baird made the jump to federal politics and is currently held by Grits at the provincial level.

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With a file from The Canadian Press