Prominent Conservatives linked to O'Brien influence-peddling case: testimony

OTTAWA - The man who eventually won the Ottawa mayor's job urged one of his rivals to accept a federal appointment to leave the race, suggesting the alternative was a dirty-tricks campaign aimed at destroying his candidacy, a trial was told Monday.

OTTAWA - The man who eventually won the Ottawa mayor's job urged one of his rivals to accept a federal appointment to leave the race, suggesting the alternative was a dirty-tricks campaign aimed at destroying his candidacy, a trial was told Monday.

Larry O'Brien and Terry Kilrea were the only two right-of-centre mayoralty candidates in the 2006 municipal election.

O'Brien claimed "some very prominent Conservatives" wanted the two to come to a business arrangement about who would run, Kilrea testified during the first day of testimony at O'Brien's influence-peddling trial.

"There are some Conservatives that like you and they would like not to see you hurt," Kilrea said O'Brien told him during a face-to-face meeting in July 2006.

"They'd like to do something to make a business arrangement for you and to make sure there's only one of us in the race."

O'Brien told him they'd make it worth his while to pull out, he testified.

Kilrea said O'Brien suggested his team could have played hardball, using a vulgar, Richard Nixon-era term for dirty campaign tricks.

"He said, 'We could have just ratf**ked you.' He said, 'What do you think you're going to do when you lose the election?"'

O'Brien has pleaded not guilty to two counts of influence peddling for allegedly offering Kilrea, his accuser, an inducement to drop out of the mayoralty race.

Kilrea, who ran unsuccessfully for the mayor's office in 2003, testified that O'Brien arranged a meeting in July 2006 at which he indicated an interest in running and told Kilrea the two right-of-centre candidates would split the conservative vote and both lose.

Kilrea had worked on the campaigns of now-Transport Minister John Baird and Pierre Poilievre, currently the prime minister's parliamentary secretary.

He testified that O'Brien indicated he could get him a federal appointment if he quit the race.

"He said, what if my team found you other employment?" Kilrea testified.

Kilrea quoted O'Brien as telling him: "John Baird is the key. John Baird is the one that makes this happen."

The job offer was a five-year appointment to the National Parole Board at a salary of $110,000 a year, he said. Kilrea said O'Brien called back within a few hours of his face-to-face meeting and told him he was "in the queue."

O'Brien indicated that had been arranged by John Reynolds, Harper's campaign co-chair in the 2006 election, Kilrea testified.

O'Brien told Kilrea to contact Baird, but when he sent Baird an email, the then-Treasury Board president responded that he knew nothing about it - although the two agreed to meet in person at a later date.

Kilrea imparted this information to O'Brien. "Larry said he had screwed up, he had to go about this a different way, that John would be pissed off," Kilrea testified.

Kilrea said he and Baird did meet for an hour in Baird's office. Kilrea said he talked about his employment situation, but never raised the parole board job and neither did Baird.

In its opening statement, the prosecution alleged O'Brien had or pretended to have influence with the federal Conservative government in order to induce Kilrea to quit the race.

Before calling Kilrea to the stand, Crown prosecutor Scott Hutchison launched proceedings with a "narrative" that alleged O'Brien wanted the fellow small-c conservative out.

These are not offences, Hutchison noted, "that we deal with on a daily basis."

The high-profile case is being heard by Judge Douglas Cunnigham, associate chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court.

The trial is expected to last nine weeks.

 
 
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