World Bulletin / News Desk
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced his immediate resignation on Tuesday, a move that leaves the Conservative government short of a senior figure in the runup to an election set for this October.
Baird, 45, said that after 20 years working in politics it was time to start the next chapter in his life. He has served as foreign minister since May 2011 and has been a member of the Conservative government from the day it took power in early 2006.
Political sources though told Reuters that Baird's relations with the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper had deteriorated in recent months.
"Last night I spoke to the prime minister and informed him that I was standing down from cabinet," Baird told legislators in the House of Commons.
"I expressed my intention not to run in the next election in the new riding of Nepean, and I also expressed my intention to stand down as a member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean in the weeks ahead."
Harper listened to his remarks intently in the chamber, quickly went over to embrace him afterwards, and issued this statement: "It is with great regret and affection that I today accepted the resignation of one of the finest ministers that I have had the privilege of working with, John Baird."
Baird, a fiercely partisan figure who was popular inside the party, had been particularly critical of Russia over its involvement in Ukraine and was also a strong defender of Israel.
Trade Minister Ed Fast will take over as foreign minister temporarily until Harper appoints a replacement for Baird. Among those seen as contenders for the job are Employment Minister Jason Kenney, Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who is a former diplomat.