Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Conservative John Baird Tells Toronto to Flick Off

We've learned recently that Lisa Raitt not only left behind top secret documents after a television interview, but also an incriminating audiotape.

But is she the stupidest Conservative cabinet minister? Well ... yeah, maybe; but yesterday John Baird accidentally walked into a media room and told Toronto, not to 'flick off', but used another word that starts with 'f' and ends with 'k' and I don't mean frock.

An accountability act not worth the paper it was written on, and an environmental policy that rivaled only George Bush's, Mr. Baird has proven yet again why he should never be a position that requires intellect or diplomacy.

Toronto may just return the favour and completely flick off the Conservatives next election.

Top Tory curses Toronto
Transport Minister John Baird meets city's application for streetcar cash with a blunt, and profane, dismissal
Jun 09, 2009
Petti Fong

WHISTLER, B.C. – Toronto's only application for money under the federal government's $4 billion infrastructure stimulus fund was met with a profane dismissal by Transport Minister John Baird yesterday.

In an unguarded moment, Baird told aides Toronto stood alone in not meeting the technical criteria for federal cash, yet was complaining about Ottawa dragging its feet.

"Twenty-seven hundred people got it right. They didn't. That is not a partnership and they're bitching at us," he said.

"They should f--- off."

The federal minister overseeing the infrastructure program was overheard by a Star reporter after he mistakenly walked into a media room at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention at this British Columbia resort.

When his words were read back to him, he acknowledged his remarks.

Toronto made a calculated move to seek money to replace its aging streetcar fleet by submitting just one application while most municipalities submitted long lists of projects ranging from bridge repairs to sewer upgrades.

Mayor David Miller said Toronto only wants funds to buy 204 streetcars from Bombardier, to be built at a cost of $1.2 billion. The proposed deal will expire June 27 and will collapse if federal and provincial money isn't forthcoming by then.

The city said, based on its population, its share of the stimulus announced in January's budget would be about $312 million.

Miller said last night Toronto's proposal fits the federal criteria.

He said his meeting with Baird at the convention was "amicable and frank" and that the minister "didn't say that to me" when asked if Baird used the obscenity.

But Baird said Toronto's was the only application among 2,700 submitted that wasn't done properly.

He said Toronto's submission is ineligible because it doesn't focus on job creation within the next two years in the 416 area.

Later, Baird said his remarks were off-the-cuff and he presumed private because he didn't realize he was in the media workroom. (Boy, Harper's overuse of tapes on Michael Ignatieff is sure coming back to bite him in butt)

He said he's had frank discussions with the city about its bid and has been talking to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the GTA's federal representative, about projects eligible for cash.

"This project, while it fits into Toronto's vision of what they want to do, it doesn't fit into our vision of moving quickly. We don't want to see Toronto left out of infrastructure stimulus," said Baird. "What I don't want to see is a year or two from now people say that the federal government plans aren't creating jobs in Toronto."

Councillor Linda Rydholm of Thunder Bay, home of the Bombardier plant, said the project needs approval. "Our workers need the contract to continue or start."

Miller said Toronto's bid will help the overall economy in Ontario and create immediate jobs.

At the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting, Baird identified the country's most significant infrastructure project as the $4 billion to $5 billion access road to a new border crossing near Windsor and said he is making it a personal priority.

The project "has the attention at the highest level. The province and the federal government are on the same page. The time for action is now."

Delegates at the meeting began the three-day event with a call from big city mayors for Ottawa to speed money for infrastructure projects.

The government promised money to municipalities in hopes of creating thousands of jobs, with the caveat that a major component of the projects must be completed by March 2011. Mayors said that, while announcements were made, the actual money has not materialized.

Maybe it's a good thing that Stephen Harper did over stuff his cabinet, because there may soon be a few empty sets.

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