O’Brien stays for full meeting



Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien, pictured behind a T-shirt from the Gay Students Association at Merivale High School, speaks at the Mayor’s Pride Townhall, held at city hall last night.

“A sign of a good leader is someone who knows that everyone is important. I hope this is a sign of the rest of your term.”

Not only did he stay for the entire meeting, Mayor Larry O’Brien ended with a promise to reach out to Ottawa’s gay community.

Although event organizers were told to expect the mayor for 15 minutes at the GLBT community’s Mayor’s Pride Townhall event at city hall, O’Brien stayed to answer questions on everything from his stance on transgender rights, to the city’s now-defunct crack pipe program.

“Now is a time that I can reach out to these groups. I’m just enough above water that I can start reaching out,” he said.

The mayor had rankled some by skipping the flag-raising event for Capital Pride Week and after his office had previously told townhall organizers that the mayor would only be available for 15 minutes, rather than for the scheduled two hours.

“I’m insulted that you were not able to meet with us before now,” Ottawa resident Nancy-Ruth Purdy said. “A sign of a good leader is someone who knows that everyone is important. I hope this is a sign of the rest of your term.”

“This job is big, but it’s never too big to listen to the people,” said O’Brien.

“We’re excited this is our first opportunity to meet Mr. O’Brien, but hoping this is not our last time,” said townhall organizer Jeremy Dias, of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative.

Prior to the meeting, Linda Slater said she hoped to learn more about O’Brien. “I don’t know where he’s coming from yet,” she said.

She hoped gay residents’ relationships with him would be as positive as it was with former mayor Bob Chiarelli.

Elliott Youden, said before the meeting that the mayor’s initial disinterest in the forum was seen an insult. But O’Brien turned out to be the most frequent panel speaker, which ran overtime due to interest. The panel also included

Councillor Diane Holmes, Ottawa Police Chief Vernon White and Inspector Kai Liu, bylaw enforcement co-ordinator Craig Calder, and community volunteer Joanne Law.

The meeting allows everyone to put their issues to the mayor and the police chief at the same time, said Capital Pride Chairman Gord Boissonneault.