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Baird nixes art sale 0

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks at the Department of Foreign Affairs Headquarters in Ottawa, December 15, 2011. (Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency file photo)

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks at the Department of Foreign Affairs Headquarters in Ottawa, December 15, 2011. (Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency file photo)

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has halted a proposal to sell off parts of his department's art collection in a bid to squeeze extra cash out of its budget.

"We have no plans to sell these paintings," said Baird's spokesman Joseph Lavoie on Monday.

The Canadian Press reported Monday the foreign affairs department was gearing up to sell over 160 artworks to museums and other public institutions for a 30% discount as part of a three-year budget-cutting plan. Twenty-two pieces had reportedly been flagged for a first sale.

But Lavoie said some of the documents referred to by the newswire service dated back to 2010.

"It was a proposal, which the current minister has decided not to execute," Lavoie said.

He said Baird rejected the cost-cutting measure out of respect for the artwork and the government's investments in the valuable pieces.

The paintings included works by Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle and Canadian painters William Kurelek and Edwin Holgate.

Last year, Baird got into hot water when he removed two works by Quebec painter Alfred Pellan from the Lester B. Pearson Building, the headquarters of Canada's department of foreign affairs in Ottawa, and replaced them with an official portrait of the Queen.

The redecoration caused some controversy, especially in Quebec, where people felt it was a show of disrespect to the celebrated painter.


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