As in any arena, strong competition breeds strong competitors. A field of strong candidates fight more forcefully for their ideas. Their weaknesses get tested.

And through the fire of a leadership contest – the hotter the better – you harden them into steel.

Step forward John Baird.

Baird cut his teeth as a Young Turk in Ontario premier Mike Harris’ government, later moving to Ottawa to become Stephen Harper’s reliable Mr. Fix-it. In both governments he had a hard-earned reputation as a fiscal hawk. He is without question an instant A-list competitor.

Baird would be a comfortable choice for many conservatives with Canadian Alliance/Reform Party lineage.