Today I want to write about the antiquated masculine culture which permeates Canadian Politics. If you’ve ever watched Question Period, then you know what I’m talking about. Politics is one of the few professions in this country where is considered acceptable (even encouraged) to point fingers, scream, yell, bang on desks and berate your colleagues.
One politician who has built a reputation for himself based on this abhorrent behaviour is the Conservative Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, John Baird. The Globe and Mail writes “[Baird has] gained a reputation as an attack dog, screaming responses to opposition questions, insulting and snarling at any who have the audacity to challenge him.”
Charming right? Well, today Baird was named Parliamentarian of the Year in Macleans magazine. This honour is bestowed by the Canadian Members of Parliament. They are asked to vote in several categories (their votes are converted into a points system to ensure that larger parties don’t have an advantage). This year, 202 MPs voted (nearly 70%).
The accompanying Maclean’s article gushes about Baird, including: his leadership marshalling the Accountability Act and overseeing billions of dollars in federal stimulus money; his role as Harper’s #2; and his behind-the-scenes ability to schmooze with the best of them.
While this may all be true, when I heard that Baird was the recipient of this honour, my first reaction was: Oh Hell No!
John Baird is one of the most disrespectful politicians in the Canadian government. This is his public persona. This is what he is known for. In a previous blog article on gendered media coverage of politicians, I wrote about Baird’s ‘emotional outburst’ last summer which resulted in him telling the city of Toronto to ‘f- off.’ Sadly, this is not unusual behaviour for Baird. In fact, on the very same day he was named Parliamentarian of the Year, he showed up uninvited to a committee hearing. He then berated the Chair, Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi, implying she was unintelligent and referring to her by her first name, and lashed out at another committee member Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.
To hammer home my point – the confrontational, adversarial nature of Canadian politics is identified as one of the main reasons why women don’t run for political office. This does not mean that women are weak. It means that many women don’t want to go to work every day and have to deal with disrespectful men. It makes for a hostile working environment, it’s demoralizing and downright counter-productive.
Over the years, countless politicians – of both genders and of all political stripes – have called for a change in this ‘blood sport’ mentality present in Canadian Politics. For this reason, I have to say that I was shocked John Baird was named Parliamentarian of the Year! He represents the epitome of what needs to change in Canadian politics. He should not be rewarded; a better course of action would be to reprimand him for his unacceptable behaviour and recommend anger management.