OPP investigation launched, thanks to Ottawa labour council

The question remains - why was it left to an outside group like the labour council to take the initiative?

 

Ottawa (28 March 2007) - Thanks to the Ottawa and District Labour Council (ODLC), the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have finally launched an investigation into an allegations surrounding the election of Larry O'Brien as mayor of Ottawa last November.

The probe was made public by president Sean McKenny and confirmed by the OPP this week after McKenny provided authorities with a copy of a sworn affidavit signed last Dec. 20 by Terry Kilrea, a candidate who dropped out of the Ottawa municipal election race last Aug. 30. Kilrea later passed a lie detector test in which he was questioned in detail about the affidavit.

The affidavit says Kilrea met several times over the summer with O'Brien, a millionaire businessman who entered the race late and emerged as a surprise winner. The two discussed arrangements for Kilrea, who had been running for several months at the time, to drop out and clear the way for O'Brien to run as the lone right-of-centre candidate, the affidavit alleges.

O'Brien has admitted meeting with Kilrea but he denies anything illegal transpired. It is an offence under the Criminal Code and the Ontario Municipal Elections Act to offer an inducement or bribe to anyone to quit an election.

Kilrea says he was offered money - up to $30,000 - to cover campaign debts if he quit the race. The possibility of an appointment to the National Parole Board was also seriously discussed, he claims.

In the end, Kilrea says he refused to make any deal, and quit Aug. 30 on his own initiative without receiving any benefit or promise of a post-election appointment. Subsequently, he says he decided to go public with his personal account of events surrounding the election.

The Ottawa Citizen

The existence of the affidavit was first disclosed by the Ottawa Citizen on Feb. 10 when the paper published an extensive report, outlining meetings and communications involving Kilrea, O'Brien and other political operatives, including a prominent Conservative pollster.

Two of those named in the affidavit, former Tory MP John Reynolds, now a registered Ottawa lobbyist, and federal cabinet minister John Baird, denied this week that Kilrea was offered anything or that they did anything wrong. Reynolds was co-chair of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2006 federal election campaign. Baird is one of Harper's most senior ministers.

McKenny received the affidavit from anonymous sources. On Feb. 20, ten days after the Citizen's sensational report appeared, he forwarded a copy of the notarized, six-page, double-spaced document to the Ontario municipal affairs minister and provincial attorney general.

McKenny said the attorney general wrote back suggesting he contact the Ottawa police. He took the advice and turned the affidavit over to Ottawa Police Chief Vince Bevan, along with copies of his correspondence with the two Ontario Liberal cabinet ministers.

He said the Ottawa police declined to investigate because of a potential conflict of interest. As mayor, O'Brien sits on the Ottawa Police Services Board and has regular contact with the force. Instead, the force turned the issue over to the OPP.

Why the labour council?

Where the matter goes from here is anybody's guess - if it goes anywhere at all. Yet lots of questions remain.

One odd aspect about the affair is why it fell to such an unlikely group as the labour council to be the flashpoint to get an investigation going.

Where has everyone else been since the Citizen broke the story? Why didn't the mayor himself, or the Ottawa police, or the attorney-general, or the municipal affairs minister - on their own initiative - take effective action to get to the bottom of the affair?

Where have the federal Conservatives been, or Ottawa's municipal politicians? Each of the city's councillors has been given a copy of the affidavit, which is now in wide circulation. And why do significant portions of the document remain unpublished by the media?

Good questions. McKenny is as mystified as anyone else.

"This is the kind of crap that keeps people from voting," he told NUPGE this week. "We need to put this sort thing to bed one way or the other."

The council, which has been the voice of the labour movement in Ottawa since 1872, speaks for about 45,000 workers in the national capital region. It brings together about 90 area unions representing all sectors in the community.

More information:
• Ottawa and District Labour Council release