In disgrace, by dying or with dignity.

These are the only three ways to leave a House of Commons seat.

The two unappetizing options were on John Baird’s mind when he quit cabinet this week to seek much greener pastures in a lucrative private sector job.

There was the risk he could lose his seat in a new riding or his party could end up in opposition purgatory after this fall’s election. And Baird was acutely aware that his friend Jim Flaherty never cashed in a successful political career by dying in office.

So Baird did what a lot of his colleagues should do. He called his own retirement play.

He flipped the bird at the all-controlling PMO by leaking news of his resignation without telling Stephen Harper. And he left with a scandal-free record which maximized his value to outside employers.

John Baird’s exit example ought to inspire others.

Too many MPs mistake public service for a lifelong career. Over time, they lose enthusiasm and perspective. They become jaded by a thought-policing process which rewards blind obedience and punishes unscripted speech.

And they eventually renounce their roots.

Current Conservatives, for example, have forgotten their fury at prior government behavior. They shamelessly abuse tax dollars with partisan advertising, dominate Parliament with debate limits, refuse to see value in any opposition amendments and embrace the high-flying entitlements of power.

Even Baird should be questioned on why he flew around the world during his final days on the job, a glorified farewell tour for no apparent political purpose beyond collecting contacts for future use.

But I quibble.

Three or four terms is the ideal shelf life for most MPs.

After that, if not before, their political priorities begin to shift from voter representation to party protection or self preservation.

Baird walked away ahead of his best-before date and his market value expired. It was a shrewd move.

This fall, many long-serving MPs will cling to their seats for no higher calling than a paycheque.

They may well find that closing the door to a dignified parliamentary exit clears the way for a voter eviction in disgrace.