Monday, March 26, 2007

OPP probing alleged Tory link to mayoralty offer

Updated Mon. Mar. 26 2007 1:46 PM ET

Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- The Ontario Provincial Police have launched an investigation into a sworn affidavit that claims a senior Tory close to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was involved in an alleged bid to buy off an Ottawa mayoralty candidate.

"It's an ongoing investigation at this point,'' Sgt. Christine Rae of the OPP's east region headquarters in Smiths Falls, Ont., said Monday.

The affidavit, sworn out by former mayoralty candidate Terry Kilrea, names John Reynolds, the co-chairman of the 2006 Conservative election campaign, as the federal contact in a purported Parole Board appointment offer by eventual winner Larry O'Brien. In return, Kilrea was to drop out of Ottawa's 2006 municipal race.

Such an arrangement, if true, is a possible breach of both the Criminal Code and the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.

The OPP was forwarded the complaint by the Ottawa police last Friday, after a labour group -- acting on the advice of the attorney general of Ontario -- went to the local cops.

"We do have an investigation,'' Rae said Monday. "There was a complaint forwarded to us by Ottawa Police Service requesting that we do an investigation, which we have agreed to do.''

The job offer was allegedly made to Kilrea by O'Brien, a millionaire businessman who, like Kilrea, campaigned as a tough-on-crime, fiscal conservative in the crowded mayoralty field. O'Brien went on to win a surprise victory.

To date, none of the allegations have resulted in charges, nor have they been proven in court.

"It didn't happen, it's that simple,'' Reynolds said in an interview. "My point of view, I never put anything in for anybody. I don't do that kind of stuff.''

Added Reynolds: "I've talked to Larry (O'Brien), and I said, 'Larry, did you ever ask me?' He said, 'Well, we may have talked about it, but he never asked me to do anything.'''

O'Brien, who has previously denied published allegations that he offered to pay Kilrea's $30,000 of campaign debt if he quit, refused to comment Monday on the police investigation.

"We're just not commenting,'' said a spokesman for the mayor.

Reynolds, a former Conservative MP, interim party leader and currently lobbyist who meets regularly with the prime minister, said he doesn't know Kilrea "from Adam,'' but he hesitated to call Kilrea's affidavit a fabrication.

"Well, it's something in his own mind,'' said Reynolds. "People get in their own heads some days what people say.

"If Larry said to him, 'Hey, I can talk to John Reynolds and put your name in,' that would be a fair statement, a fair thing to do. But I never did (forward Kilrea's name), so I doubt that he asked me. I would have done it.''

The complaint is the latest twist in a municipal story that appears to have multiple connections to the federal Conservatives.

Then-treasury board president John Baird's unusual, mid-campaign intervention on a federal transit grant dramatically altered the course of the campaign, and ultimately helped O'Brien win by a wide margin.

Kilrea's claim that he was offered expense money by O'Brien if he would drop out was previously reported.

But Kilrea's affidavit, sworn out Dec. 20, 2006, contains a more startling allegation.

Kilrea, who did in fact quit the race last August, alleges that during a meeting last summer with O'Brien on a coffee-shop patio, he was also offered a Parole Board job.

"At approximately 2 p.m. later that day (July 5, 2006), O'Brien called to advise that my name had been put forward for an appointment to the National Parole Board,'' states the affidavit.

"When I asked how this was possible, he responded that he had spoken to John Reynolds. He then instructed me to call John Baird, President of the Treasury Board, and to tell him that my name `was in the queue' for an appointment to the board.''

Kilrea claims he then e-mailed Baird, a local MP whose federal nomination Kilrea had supported, but was told by the Treasury Board president that he knew nothing about the matter.

Four days later, Kilrea claims he was contacted by Dimitri Pantazopolous, a longtime Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative party pollster who is president of Praxicus Public Strategies Inc.

Kilrea alleges that after showing him polling data suggesting why he should quit the race, Pantazopolous alluded to the appointment offer but said it "would have to wait until after the (municipal) election because it was `too hot to handle' at this stage,'' says the affidavit.

Kilrea claims that in a subsequent phone conversation with O'Brien on July 19 he was told "the offer 'would not be on the table forever' and that I needed to make a decision.''

Rumours of a patronage offer surfaced last fall, but the story died when Kilrea refused to publicly call the offer a bribe and O'Brien characterized the matter as sour grapes by a political foe.

But once Kilrea's sworn affidavit fell into the hands of the Ottawa District Labour Council, the labour group sent it to Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant in the belief that important elements of the allegations were being suppressed.

Bryant responded in a letter to the council that any complaint should go through local police.

The Ontario minister responsible for the Municipal Elections Act also refused to intervene, telling the labour group in a letter that "it would not be appropriate as minister ... to comment on a matter that may come before the courts.''

Sean McKenny, president of the labour council, said that after getting a copy of Kilrea's affidavit he was immediately concerned that "the biggest piece'' of the alleged bribe had not been disclosed in media reports.

"We're following the direction, as we understood it, of the attorney general (of Ontario) and that is to drop a package off with the chief of police here in the city,'' said McKenny.

"At the end of the day, people should know: either yes or no. That's what we're trying to push for here.''

Kilrea, a local bailiff who ran unsuccessfully for the Ottawa mayoralty in 2003, is sticking to his story.

"Before I turned down the offer, (O'Brien) told me the Parole Board was a five-year appointment at $110,000 a year,'' Kilrea said in an interview.

"So, I mean, pretty tempting for a guy who's making 60 (thousand) go to a 110 for a five-year appointment -- and cash, to boot, in the offer. It was a very, very tempting offer.''

He says he ultimately turned it down, and later initially denied that he'd been made such an offer.

"Did I consider it a bribe? Looking at it now, a lot of people are saying it is,'' said Kilrea.

"It is an inducement. In the Municipal Act it's very clear that you're not allowed to offer a job or anything like that to somebody to get them out of the race. Under the Municipal Act, it looks like this is a violation.''

Reynolds maintains there's nothing sinister. He said he would be happy to put Kilrea's name forward, or any other person's, for a Parole Board appointment because not many people want the job.

"They're looking for people to go on parole boards,'' said Reynolds. "Most guys don't want the jobs. They don't pay that much.''

Kilrea said he considers himself naive.

"I know this kind of stuff goes on probably every day in the back rooms at Parliament Hill and everywhere else,'' he said, alluding to a string of other allegations of candidates being bought off with cash or appointments to either give up a seat or not seek election.

"Obviously this kind of stuff is going on all the time.''


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home