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OPEN SECRET: Conservative cabinet minister John Baird outed

Baird is a familiar face in gay social circles in Ottawa

OUTED. Conservative cabinet minister John Baird (left) smiles for the camera at Capital Pride in 2009. Credit: Remi Theriault

In a live interview that aired Feb 2 on Metro Morning, a Toronto CBC-radio program, Pamela Taylor was put on the hot seat, asked to name any openly gay Conservative MPs or Ontario MPPs. The trick is, none are openly gay. She named John Baird, a Conservative cabinet minister who has always refused to discuss his sexuality in the media.

Baird is a familiar face in gay social circles in Ottawa. He regularly chats up queer bureaucrats at Public Service Pride social events. He’s a friend of gay former Ottawa city councillor Alex Munter. He’s attended Ottawa’s Pride parties, including the 2009 parade (see photo).

In the media, he’s often portrayed as a workaholic bachelor and is the frequent (though non-sexual) date of Laureen Harper.

Taylor is running in a Toronto-Centre provincial by-election to replace openly gay former deputy premier George Smitherman. That election is Feb 4.

Baird, 40, was first elected in 1995 as a provincial Progressive Conservative. In 1999, he became a cabinet minister under then-premier Mike Harris. Baird was responsible for the contentious welfare-to-work file during that time.

He was elected federally in 2006. As treasury board president that year, he stripped funding from the Court Challenges Program, a Chretien-era initiative that funded important gay legal battles, including the fight for gay marriage. He also “defanged” Status of Women Canada and cut funding for adult literacy and medical marijuana research.

However, Baird has never voted against gay marriage federally and was one of 10 Conservative MPs to vote against reopening the issue late in 2006.

Last November, he spoke out against a violent, anti-gay bill making its way through the Ugandan legislature. At the time, he called it “abhorrent” and “offensive” and said that “it offends Canadian values.”

Taylor’s comments were part of a scuffle over the provincial Progressive Conservatives’ record on gay issues.

ANDY BARRIE: Can you think of a single openly gay Conservative politician, either provincially or federally, who is gay?

TAYLOR: Openly gay? John Baird.

BARRIE: [Stunned] Thank you. You got me.

TAYLOR: And there are many others.

BARRIE: That was really dumb of me.

To listen to the clip, go to the Metro Morning website and click on Toronto By-Election (it’s about halfway through).

Representatives for Pam Taylor and John Baird have not returned our calls for comment.