OTTAWA – An Ontario Tory MPP says she was told by Larry O’Brien in late July 2006 that a rival right-wing Ottawa mayoral candidate was being offered a job with the National Parole Board.
The alleged offer is at the heart of two influence-peddling charges against O’Brien, the Ottawa mayor who is standing trial at Ontario Superior Court.
Lisa MacLeod, a well-connected Conservative who previously worked for two prominent federal MPs, testified she met O’Brien on July 31, 2006, to discuss his looming municipal campaign.
MacLeod was much more familiar with another right-wing mayoral candidate, Terry Kilrea.
She testified O’Brien “very casually” told her Kilrea was being offered an appointment and that it related to the National Parole Board.
O’Brien has told police that it was Kilrea who raised the idea of a parole board job to get him out of the mayoral race.
O’Brien said the notion died within hours of their July 12 meeting after he said he was advised that such an inducement would be illegal.
MacLeod, however, testified under oath that she recalls O’Brien telling her more than two weeks later that: “We’re talking to Terry about an appointment.”
MacLeod previously worked in the constituency office of John Baird, now the federal Transport Minister, and as an assistant to MP Pierre Poilievre, currently the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
MacLeod also testified she heard the name of Doug Finley, national director of the federal Conservative party, come up in relation to the Kilrea appointment. But she told the court she heard Finley’s name through the political “rumour mill” and not directly from O’Brien.
Kilrea is the Crown’s star witness in the trial and MacLeod’s testimony is the strongest evidence to date backing up his allegations against O’Brien.
Judge Douglas Cunningham, the associate chief justice of Ontario Superior Court, ruled Wednesday that he will permit evidence to stand from three witnesses who discussed recruitment to the O’Brien campaign in August 2006.
One of the witnesses, a top aide to Poilievre, has testified he was clearly told by one of O’Brien’s campaign workers that Kilrea was exiting the mayoral race because he’d “been offered something through the (Conservative) party.”
John Light testified he was told the appointment offer was being orchestrated by Dimitri Pantazopoulos – at the time the official pollster of the federal Conservatives.
The O’Brien campaign worker, Greg Strong, testified under oath that he told Light no such thing – although Strong did concede they wanted Kilrea out of the race to keep from splitting the right-of-centre vote.