Federal Transport Minister John Baird is in damage control mode today after saying the City of Toronto should 'f___ off' at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in British Columbia. Baird made the comments in a private conversation. What he didn't realize (until it was too late) was that he had inadvertently walked into the media room, making his controversial comments fair game for the reporters in the room.
Baird was telling his aides that Toronto's application for federal infrastructure funds was the only one out of 2,700 applications that did not meet the eligibility requirements. A reporter overheard him saying that Toronto shouldn't complain about not getting the funds fast enough.
"Twenty-seven hundred people got it right. They didn't. That is not a partnership and they're bitching at us," Baird was overheard saying. "They should f___ off."
The Prime Minister's office is backtracking, saying that the government is committed to having a constructive relationship with Ontario cities.
These comments will surely strain the already tense relations between the government and the City of Toronto. They certainly don't do much for Minister Baird's public image. And they reinforce the perception of a government that's arrogant and out of touch. The government is dealing with yet another fire because of a gaffe that was completely preventable.
This incident brings up memories of other high profile 'microphone gaffes', including Prime Minister Chretien's calling George Bush a moron, Jesse Jackson disparaging Barack Obama, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips trash-talking her sister-in-law on live televisionand more. In our media training sessions, we always reinforce the fact that the camera and microphone are always on. This most recent incident with Minister Baird highlights that fact. Especially in the era of Google and You Tube, these slip-ups never go away.
Read CTV's coverage of the story here.