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Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Sept. 30, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Sept. 30, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Question Period

Baird deflects business-card fire, laughs off 'golden shower' quip Add to ...

It was pretty clear Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird would get a rough ride from the opposition over the news that he had ordered a set of gold-embossed business cards that dropped the word Canada, contrary to government policy.

But, after days of defending Treasury Board President Tony Clement over the alleged misuse of $50-million from the G8 legacy fund, Mr. Baird seemed to relish the questions about his own relatively minor indiscretion when they came at him Friday during Question Period in the House of Commons.

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He told NDP MP Paul Dewar that his cards do indeed have the word “Canada” on them and that his contact information is available in both official languages – though not Braille. But it was the exchange with Liberal MP Scott Brison that lit up the Commons.

Mr. Brison began by pointing out that it is against Treasury Board rules to have gold on business cards because it’s too expensive. “Why is the minister breaking government rules?” asked Mr. Brison. “Why is he giving taxpayers the gold finger?”

Mr. Baird rose with a sly smirk on his face.

“When I arrived in the Parliament this morning, I was deeply disturbed that to realize that the president of the Treasury Board wasn’t here to take this question,” said Mr. Baird, prompting laughter on all sides of the House.

“I remember a time when the Liberal Party of Canada used to think big on foreign affairs, they would think about big issues around the world when it came to Canada and domestic issues,” he continued. “And now they been returned to the time when they are dealing with $400 worth of business cards.”

But Mr. Brison was not ready to end the volley.

“It seems to be quite quid pro quo going on over there,” he said of the Conservative benches. “The Foreign Minister gives the Treasury Board minister a $50-million slush fund for his riding. Then the Treasury Board minister lets the Foreign Minister break the rules to get his golden business card. This is a very expensive game of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

Then came the punch line. “When Canadian are struggling just to get by, why are Conservative ministers showering each other with gold?” Mr. Brison asked. “Why the golden showers, Mr. Speaker?”

The House erupted but Mr. Baird let the sexual double entendre slip by without mention.

“Yes, Mr. Speaker,” he said, his voice breaking with laughter, “I sat down with the President of the Treasury Board and said: ‘Have I got a deal for you. I’ll give you $50-million worth of infrastructure funds if you will give me $400 worth of business cards.’”

After Question Period, Mr. Brison feigned ignorance of the meaning of golden shower.

“I’m a country guy. I don’t know how you interpret these kinds of things, but I’m not that sophisticated in that regard,” he told reporters. “But I certainly wouldn’t want to piss off the minister.”

 

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