Baird's police statement on O'Brien case in hot dispute at trial

OTTAWA - The defence lawyer for Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien says a senior Conservative cabinet minister will flatly contradict the testimony of O'Brien's chief accuser at his influence-peddling trial.

OTTAWA - The defence lawyer for Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien says a senior Conservative cabinet minister will flatly contradict the testimony of O'Brien's chief accuser at his influence-peddling trial.

But an official from Transport Minister John Baird's office called The Canadian Press to say lawyer Michael Edelson has completely misrepresented a police statement provided by the minister - and that no contradiction exists.

Baird's office says the defence lawyer has taken a statement to police and characterized it as a conversation between Baird and the chief accuser.

Edelson appeared to dumbfound witness Terry Kilrea with a dramatically different account of a meeting between the erstwhile mayoral candidate and Baird, then-Treasury Board president, in July 2006.

Edelson told the court that Baird's police statement says he told Kilrea that he'd just brought in the Federal Accountability Act and that Kilrea was unqualified for an appointment to the National Parole Board.

Baird's office, however, says the minister's statement to police doesn't allude to any conversation with Kilrea, but rather is a statement of principles about the Accountability Act and Kilrea's unsuitability for an appointment.

The alleged appointment offer is at the heart of O'Brien's trial on two counts of influence peddling - the alleged carrot in an effort to bribe Kilrea out of the 2006 mayoral race in a bid to avoid him and O'Brien splitting the right-of-centre vote.

Kilrea has maintained over four days of questioning that he raised the appointment with Baird in an email exchange at O'Brien's urging, but that he never spoke about the matter in person to Baird.

Kilrea specifically, repeatedly and emphatically stated the appointment did not come up during an hour-long meeting at Baird's office in 2006.

"There was no discussion on July 19 with Minister Baird about the National Parole Board. Zero," Kilrea told Edelson as the defence lawyer was wrapping up his fourth day of cross-examination Thursday.

Edelson asked if Kilrea was as certain about that testimony as he was about his central allegations against O'Brien.

Kilrea agreed that he was positive about his discussions with O'Brien and positive about his talk with Baird.

"Just before we break, I want you to ponder this," said the defence lawyer, laying the trap moments before the trial paused for a four-day long weekend.

Baird's statement to the police, said Edelson, will reveal that the National Parole Board was discussed at some length on July 19, 2006.

"That he told you you were not qualified for such a position, that he had just completed passing the Accountability Act as Treasury Board president, and he said that you did not qualify - you did not have the capacity for the position," Edelson said of Baird's police statement.

Baird's office said late Thursday that no such conversation ever took place.

Kilrea - not surprisingly given Baird's subsequent correction of the record - was left gamely maintaining that such words "certainly never were said or came up."

And Kilrea still refused to contradict his earlier testimony that had heaped glowing praise on Baird.

"I would think John would have integrity and honesty," Kilrea said at prompting from Edelson.

"I wouldn't call John Baird a liar."

Edelson had already spent most the week establishing that Kilrea has an unreliable memory for campaign details, while at the same time painting the Crown's chief witness in the trial as a grandstanding political opportunist.

Kilrea has testified he had a good relationship with Baird and fellow Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary.

Members of Poilievre's staff worked on Kilrea's mayoral campaign, and Baird attended a Kilrea fundraiser.

Baird is among several key federal Conservatives expected to testify before the nine-week trial ends.

The trial at Ontario's Superior Court continues Tuesday with Kilrea back under cross-examination for a fifth consecutive day.

The case is being heard by judge alone.

 
 
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