Ally's sudden departure complicates Canada PM's reelection bid

Thu Feb 5, 2015 1:20pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The sudden resignation of Canada's foreign minister has revealed strains inside the ruling Conservatives and complicates their bid to extend a decade in power in elections this October.

John Baird - a key ally of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and an experienced campaigner - quit on Tuesday, saying he wanted to do something else after 20 years in politics.

But insiders said Baird had become increasingly frustrated with officials in Harper's office, both on major issues and also over what he saw as excessive micro-management.

Baird, the sources said, unsuccessfully pushed for tougher measures against Moscow last year. He was also upset that Harper's office would not allow him to use government jets more often when on official travel.

Just as significantly, two people familiar with Baird's thinking said he had concluded the low-tax tough-on-crime Conservatives did not have a good chance of winning another majority in the next election.

"It's better to leave now rather than being one of 35 ex-cabinet ministers suddenly seeking a job after the election," said one of the people, who declined to be named citing the sensitivity of the matter.

The signs of dissent are highly unusual, since Harper - seeking to win a rare fourth consecutive election - has kept a very tight grip since coming to power in early 2006.

Baird's loss is a political and strategic setback that comes at a tricky time.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird (L) during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this February 8, 2012 file photo.  REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool