Five things you may not remember about Canada’s outgoing foreign affairs minister, John Baird:
1. While environment minister in 2007, Baird helped deliver the death knell to the Kyoto agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Baird painted a disastrous economic portrait of Canada post-Kyoto, saying it was a “risky, reckless scheme” that would spur a recession and cause 275,000 Canadians to lose their jobs.
2. Baird sparked a diplomatic fury in 2009, when he sent a short text to a friend that read simply: “Thatcher has died.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly began preparing an official statement to mourn the passing of the Iron Lady after word spread throughout a crowd of about 2,000 Conservatives at a black-tie event in Toronto. But in fact, it was Baird’s beloved tabby cat, Thatcher, who had passed away.
3. For his strong stands against countries with anti-gay laws, Baird earned the enmity of REAL Women of Canada, a socially conservative women’s group. In 2013, the group accused him of an “abuse of power” for imposing his own views on anti-gay legislation in Uganda, Kenya and Russia. “Mr. Baird’s actions are destructive to the conservative base in Canada and causing collateral damage to his party,” the group fumed in a statement.
4. When not mourning his cat, standing up for Israel and Ukraine and defending the rights of gays around the world, Baird frequently escorted Laureen Harper to events when her husband was out of town. “I love John,” the prime minister’s wife once said. “He is a great guy, he is fun to be around, he looks good in a tux and he is a great date. He is also a lover of felines.”
5. Nicknamed Rusty, Baird became an ardent Tory in his teens and was arrested in 1988 for heckling David Peterson, the Ontario premier, at a Kingston shopping mall about free trade with the United States. He later became a pitbull cabinet minister in the subsequent government of Ontario premier Mike Harris before running federally, serving the same attack dog role for Harper for years.