US & Canada

Canada foreign minister John Baird resigns

Canada"s Foreign Minister John Baird (C) receives a standing ovation before announcing his resignation in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa 3 Februay 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Baird received a standing ovation before announcing his resignation

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has resigned as Canada's top diplomat.

Mr Baird, who has served multiple positions in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, is also not expected to run for re-election as an MP.

"I will miss this place very much," Mr Baird said in a speech to Parliament. "The time has come to start a new chapter in my life."

The announcement comes as Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is expected to be released from prison.

Mr Baird , who has worked to free Mr Fahmy, said on Monday the Al Jazeera journalist's release was "imminent".

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in statement Mr Baird was "one of the finest ministers that I have had the privilege of working with".

"John has always been willing to do a lot of heavy lifting in my various cabinets and has assumed daunting new responsibilities with unsurpassed energy, commitment and professionalism, never losing sight of the fact that he was serving the Canadian people."

An unnamed Canadian official told the Associated Press news agency the foreign minister had simply decided it was the right time to resign.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Baird (left) recently held a trilateral meeting with his US and Mexican counterparts

"The minister is looking to turn the page on 20 years of public service, and like anyone in public office is looking for new opportunities at the young age of 45," the official said.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast will replace him as foreign minister, CBC news reported.

Mr Baird, who was originally elected to Parliament as an MP from the Ottawa area in 2006, previously served as transport minister, environmental minister and president of the treasury board.

He began his political career in provincial politics in Ontario and is known as one of Mr Harper's most trusted ministers.

He had little international experience before becoming foreign minister in 2011.

On Tuesday Mr Baird called Mr Harper a friend and a mentor and said he will help the prime minister in the next election.

Former Liberal opposition leader Bob Rae wrote in a tweet he admired the foreign minister's energy and willingness to listen and engage.

"John Baird is bombastic, mean spirited, vicious, eloquent, generous, smart, cantankerous, hardworking, ingratiating, effective, human," Mr Rae tweeted.

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