Canada's latest environmental steward is a man with a reputation that is equal parts aggressive policy-maker and partisan brawler. John Baird, 37, was handed the Conservative government's hottest potato last week when he moved from his post at Treasury Board to the head of Environment Canada.

He replaces the demure Rona Ambrose, and the contrast in political styles could not be sharper. Wags like to joke that Baird's question period performances alone contributed to global warming.

"Obviously he has his own communication style," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, after the newest cabinet members were sworn in at Rideau Hall. "That said, I think Minister Baird would be the first to tell you - and I can certainly tell you - that communications alone will not address the challenges we face in terms of the environment, and climate change in particular." Harper noted that Baird was given the job of shepherding the federal Accountability Act into law as the government's first priority after winning last January's election.

"He has a lot of experience and a proven track record at moving things to a conclusion through a minority Parliament." Liberals, needless to say, had a more jaundiced view. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion slammed the choice of Baird for the sensitive environment post, calling him "adversarial" and "outrageous."

The massive Accountability Act was supported by all parties in the Commons and yet Baird delighted in pounding the Liberals with accusations of corruption every time they raised the legislation in debate. "He was determined to squeeze partisan advantage in a way which was uniquely his own," said Liberal environment critic John Godfrey, who worries that will continue to be Baird's modus operandi in the environment portfolio.

Harper himself may have signalled as much when he claimed the Liberals did "absolutely nothing" on the environment during their 13 years in power.


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