John Baird’s “Toronto elites” comment leads to widespread monocle falling

John Baird’s “Toronto elites” comment leads to widespread monocle falling

John Baird: Tory elite, but not "Toronto" elite (Image: Andrew Rusk) 

The House of Commons is set to vote on the fate of the long-gun registry next Wednesday, and thanks to some arm-twisting on the part of the Jack Layton, it looks like the registry will survive despite the reservations of several rural NDP MPs. This is a pretty big reversal for the Tories who, just two weeks ago, were looking like they were finally going to keep their promise to trash the registry—a campaign vow made two elections ago.  John Baird, the Conservative house leader, isn’t taking it well. From the National Post:

I honestly share the disappointment of many of my colleagues that people who have fought for so long, so hard, so passionately against the registry are now feeling the pressure from Toronto leaders, Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Layton,” Baird told a news conference. “If we make clear and unambiguous promises in our constituencies and then face pressure from Toronto elites, we’ll be accountable for that.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to keep the Conservative talking points straight. Is Michael Ignatieff a Toronto elite? We thought he was “just visiting” from Harvard. Or was it London?  We can’t tell whether we’re supposed to resent Ignatieff because he’s from Toronto or because he’s not. Meanwhile, Jack Layton is from Hudson, Quebec, despite serving on Toronto’s city council and representing a riding here. But wait, we thought they were both in a coalition with Quebec separatists.

One thing’s clear: we know who the elites aren’t. Conservatives, that’s who. John Baird may be a cabinet minister in the government of Canada, and a graduate of Queen’s University, but don’t think he ain’t just folks. Nothing says down home cooking like “I’m a pescatarian, not a vegetarian.” Maybe his vocabulary was corrupted by the 10 years he spent in Toronto.

Baird’s colleagues in cabinet are just as homey, we’re sure. Tony Clement may have graduated from U of T Law and spent years in the Harris government at Queen’s Park (in Toronto!) but now he represents Parry Sound-Muskoka, where he engages in that most rural of Canadian past-times: building fake lakes and airport expansions for visiting global leaders.

Finally, the most un-elite of the un-elite must be our prime minister himself, Stephen Harper.  Sure, he was born and raised in Toronto (in fact, he’s the first PM we can say that about). Sure, he spends his nights doing duets with Yo-Yo Ma and hobnobbing with Canadian celebrities. But he too enjoys traditional Canadian values, like having his underlings slag the city he was born in for cheap political gain.

The best thing about all of this is that for John Baird, this is actually him being polite.

• Backs to wall, Tories invoke spectre of elites and coalitions [Globe and Mail]
• Does Tory outburst signal registry shift? [Edmonton Journal]
• ‘Toronto elites’ are pressuring MPs: Baird [Montreal Gazette]
• Perfect Posturing [Ottawa Citizen]
Kevin Libin: Insulted ‘elites’ finally know how the other guy feels [National Post]
On the definition of “elite” (but not in the big Oxford dictionary—that’s pretentious) [Vancouver Sun]
You can’t change where you were born [CBC Inside Politics]