Baird says he's apologized for f-word outburst
Transport Minister John Baird said Tuesday he was "speaking out of frustration" when he used a vulgar expression in talking about Toronto's application for light-rapid-transit car funding.
"This morning I phoned Mayor (David) Miller and apologized," he told the House of Commons during question period.
"The mayor and I both agreed let's look to the future. Let's continue to build on the important investments we need to make in public transit ... and we committed to work with them over the next few weeks to make it happen."
Baird uttered the expletive casually on Monday after he mistakenly walked into a media room at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in Whistler, B.C.
Baird told his aides that Toronto's application for federal infrastructure funds was the only one out of 2,700 applicants that didn't meet the eligibility criteria.
A reporter overheard him saying 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 heard saying.
"They should f--- off."
The minister acknowledged his comments after he was confronted by the reporter. He said he didn't realize he had walked into a media room and made the comments privately.
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who represents Toronto's Don Valley West riding, said during question period that "a vulgar attack on the people of Toronto is unacceptable, in public or in private, by a minister of the Crown."
Baird noted the federal government has already committed more than a billion dollars to help develop public transit in Toronto and added another $250 million to improve GO Transit. It has also agreed to help refurbish Union Station.
"This government is making an unprecedented commitment to public transit in Toronto, and the best yet to come," Baird said.
Kory Teneycke, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told CTV News Channel that Baird's outburst is not an indication of Ottawa's feelings towards the city.
"One of the challenges with infrastructure funding is you have to get multiple levels of governments to agree on priorities," he said in an interview from Ottawa. "It's not surprising that there are moments of frustration as that process takes place."
Toronto Mayor David Miller confirmed that he received an apology from Baird.
Miller told reporters that Toronto has one priority and that's to build Transit City -- an ambitious plan that will see the creation of eight new transit lines.
Toronto submitted one application for money to replace its aging streetcars. Other municipalities submitted requests for bridge and road repairs and upgrades to the sewage system.
"You can't build a transit system without having the cars," Miller told reporters outside city hall. "That's the point of this contract and I'm confident we'll find a solution. It's too important not to."
Baird says that Toronto's application doesn't focus on job creation in the next two years but Miller said people need a reliable transit system to get work.
"Building public transit transforms the city," Miller told reporters Tuesday morning. "It builds thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs. People need jobs."
The city wants to buy 204 next-generation streetcars from Bombardier at a cost of $1.2 billion. To make that happen, it must secure funding from the federal and provincial governments by June 27.
With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman and files from The Canadian Press