Larry O'Brien (Canadian politician)

Larry O'Brien (Canadian politician)

name =Larry O'Brien

caption = Larry O'Brien
birth_date =birth date and age |1949|07|19
birth_place =Ottawa, Canada
office = 58th Mayor of Ottawa
2nd Mayor of the new city
term_start = December 1, 2006
term_end = 2010
predecessor = Bob Chiarelli
successor = Incumbent
party = Conservative Party of Canada
religion = ProtestantFact|date=July 2008
constituency =
majority =
spouse = Debbie O'Brien (Divorced)
Colleen McBride (married) [cite news|title = Larry's party|publisher = Ottawa Citizen|url =|date = June 28, 2008]

Larry O'Brien (born July 19, 1949 in Ottawa) is the current mayor of Ottawa, Canada, as well as a current director of Calian Technologies [cite web | url= | publisher=Calian | accessdate=2007-11-29 | title=Corporate Directory / Board of Directors | date=2007 ] and its former CEO and chairman. [cite web | url= | publisher=City of Ottawa | accessdate=2007-11-29 | title=Mayor Larry O’Brien (bio) ]

O'Brien attended Elmdale Public School, Fisher Park High School, and graduated from Merivale High School in 1968. He continued his post-secondary studies at Algonquin College School of Technology and graduated with a diploma in Technology in 1972. After graduating from Algonquin College, O'Brien decided to work in the high technology sector that was taking off. He worked with innovators like Terry Matthews and Michael Cowpland. He then joined Microsystems International Ltd. In 1975 he worked for the Communications Research Centre and Motorola Communications. O'Brien finally decided to launch his first company, called Insta-Call Ltd., which went bankrupt in 1979. From then to 1982, he was the general manager of reliability-testing firm Reltek Inc. in Kanata, subsequently leaving to open Calian Technologies Ltd.

O'Brien sat on the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACST), and was chair or co-chair of the Regional Economic Diversification Opportunities (REDO), the Sectoral Advisory Group on International Trade (SAGIT) on Information Technologies and Telecommunications and the Canadian Advanced Technology Association (CATA).

O'Brien was the 1996 Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade's Business Person of the Year, the 1997 recipient of the Premier's Award for Technology, the co-chair of Saint Vincent Hospital's capital campaign in 2004 which achieved the goal of raising $ 7.5 million, the United Way Community builder of 2006 award along with his ex-wife Debbie O'Brien (née Green [cite web | url= | publisher=Ottawa Citizen | accessdate=2008-03-21 | title=A person of substance | date=2008-03-21 ] and its former CEO and chairman. [cite web | url= | publisher=City of Ottawa | accessdate=2007-11-29 | title=Mayor Larry O’Brien (bio) ] . He married Debbie in 1983 and they had two sons, Michael and Matthew. After divorcing his first wife, O'Brien married in 2008, real estate agent Colleen McBride. [cite news|title = Larry's party|publisher = Ottawa Citizen|url =|date = June 28, 2008]

2006 Ottawa Mayoral Race

In July 2006, O'Brien announced he would be running for the office of mayor of Ottawa in the November 2006 municipal election, calling himself a centrist candidate.

One of the central points of his platform was a review of Ottawa's light rail expansion plans, delaying or even eliminating the full contract. [ cite news | author = Puddicombe, Derek | title = Halt LRT: O'Brien | publisher = Ottawa Sun | url =| date = October 19, 2006. ] He was critical of the secrecy of some of the elements of the project, as well as the effects the construction would have in areas such as the Albert and Slater street corridors, and the removal of some of the existing express bus services. In September 2006, O'Brien wrote a letter to the federal President of the Treasury Board, John Baird requesting a formal review of the project. This letter led to Baird withholding the 200 million dollar federal funding until after the 2006 election in November. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = No federal rail money before Ottawa election: Baird | publisher = CBC | url = | date= October 11, 2006 ]

During a candidates debate on September 13th, O'Brien stated that one solution to the problem of homeless youth sleeping under a bridge was to replace them with a tourist kiosk. He also said homelessness could be solved through a "businesslike look." These statements led to considerable criticism from other candidates for mayor including Alex Munter and Jane Scharf. [citenews|publisher=Ottawa Sun|url=|title=Homeless on agenda|author=Barrera, Jorge|date=2006-09-14]

O'Brien promised to freeze municipal taxes over the next four years and make the city's finances more fiscally responsible (although he did not provide details). However, it is expected that the budget will rise close to $95mil over the next year; sparking debate which public services will receive a raise in price and which services will be cancelled. He is also promised a tougher policy on safety issues such as violent crimes and drug issues, and to increase the number of police officers as well as eliminating the city's free crack pipe program. He also proposed introducing a by-law preventing people from sleeping in public places based on the Montreal by-law introduced in September.

O'Brien said that he was in favor of the planned expansion of the Ottawa Congress Centre, which was halted by the City of Ottawa and the Ontario Government. [ cite news | author = O'Brien, Larry | title = Time for a New Direction for the Ottawa Congress Center | url = | date= October 18, 2006 ]

He proposed making Ottawa a leader in waste-to-energy production by generating 5% of the city's electricity from waste and diverting 100% of the city's non-recycled waste from landfills. These plans include closing the Carp Road landfill site, which Waste Management currently plans to double in size, and replacing it with three waste-to-energy facilities. [ cite news | author = O'Brien, Larry | title = A LONG-TERM WASTE TO ENERGY PLAN FOR OTTAWA | url = | date= October 10, 2006 ]

Before officially entering the mayoral race, O'Brien was in third place, with relatively low support in the polls. However, when Terry Kilrea dropped out of the race for a council spot, O'Brien obtained most of Kilrea's votes. He climbed to second place in the polls, ahead of incumbent Bob Chiarelli, then moved to first place ahead of challenger Alex Munter a few days before the election following an Ottawa Citizen poll that caught many experts by surprise. In the municipal election on 13 November 2006, O'Brien won 47% of the vote and became mayor-elect of Ottawa with a margin of 30 000 votes ahead of Alex Munter. He subsequently stepped down as CEO and chairman of Calian while remaining a director for the company. [cite news | author = Pringle, Josh | title = Labour Group Declares O'Brien in Conflict of Interest | publisher = CFRA News | url = | date= January 18, 2007 ]

Mayoral term

Light-rail expansion cancellation

In his first complete week in office, O'Brien had modified his position concerning the light-rail project due to an Ottawa Sun report that mentioned that if the project was cancelled there would be possible lawsuits by Siemens totaling up to 1 billion dollars. O'Brien mentioned afterwards that he preferred to nix only the downtown section. On December 6, Ottawa Council voted 12-11 in favor of the pursuit of the project without building the section that would travel through downtown while adding an environmental assessment that would study the possibility of building underground tunnels under Albert and Slater streets. O'Brien added that the money saved on the north-south line would be invested on developing the transitway in the suburban areas. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = Ottawa light rail goes ahead — but not downtown | publisher = CBC | url = | date= December 6, 2006 ] On December 13, he withdrew his support on the revised plan because the 400 million dollar funding by both the provincial and federal would not be returned before the contract deadline of December 15. O'Brien added that if the city signed the contract it would have been a risk. A new vote was held on December 14 and Council voted to derail the project by a margin of 13-11 with O'Brien and Rainer Bloess who was absent in the previous vote, casting the additional votes against the project. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title= Ottawa's light rail project veers off-track | publisher = CBC | url = | date= December 13, 2006 ] [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = Ottawa council kills light rail project | publisher = CBC | url = | date= December 15, 2006 ]

alary hike

Also in his first week of office, O'Brien came under attack because he supported raising his salary from $140,000 to $172,000. [ cite news | author = Katie Lewis, Chris Lackner and James Gordon, with files from Randall Denley | title = O'Brien backs raise for council, himself | publisher = Ottawa Citizen | url = | date= November 30, 2006 ] This was controversial because O'Brien had run on the platform of strict fiscal prudence. Coming under attack by critics, O'Brien reversed his position on the matter and would decline the pay raise just two days later. [ cite news | author = A-Channel Ottawa | title = O'Brien Turns Down Pay Hike | publisher = A-Channel | url = | date= December 1, 2006 ]

2007 budget

During the week of December 18, the City of Ottawa reported that it could face a 105-million dollar shortfall on the 2007 budget which is equivalent to an 11% tax increase. During the campaign O'Brien promised a no-tax hike policy, but with a larger shortfall than anticipated, he mentioned that it would be not a guarantee . [ cite news | author = Sun Media | title = O'Brien waffles on freezing tax hikes | publisher = 24 Hours | date= December 19, 2006 . ]

During the 2007 budget discussions from January 8 to January 12,2007, O'Brien voted against a passed motion that would have required city staff to implement two draft budgets including one with a tax freeze and another with a tax increase within the rate of inflation. After several budget meetings, O'Brien criticized several councillors who were more in favour of a tax hike within the rate of inflation and also for not taking the procedures seriously. Councillors have later replied that O'Brien's comments do not improve the relations between the mayor and the City Council. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = Ottawa council leaves door open for tax hike | publisher = CBC | url = | date= January 12, 2006 ] [ cite news | author = Puddicombe, Derek | title = Mayor takes round out of councillors | publisher = Ottawa Sun | url = | date= January 12, 2007 ] On February 26, 2007 it was announced that the City, while recuperating surplus and reserve funds and hiking various user fees, will not hike property taxes this year. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = Ottawa council passes tax freeze budget | url = | date= February 26, 2007 ]

Transportation Task Force

On January 19, 2007, O'Brien created a new Transportation Task Force committee led by former Liberal Cabinet Minister David Collenette, in which it will review the city's transit issues and to issue recommendations. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = David Collenette to head Ottawa mayor's transportation task force | publisher = CBC | url = | date= January 19, 2007 ]

New transit plan

While facing a $280 million lawsuit from Siemens, the contractor for the original north-south project, the city council approved on November 28, 2007 a new transit plan worth just under $2 billion. The transit plan included completion of the current Transitway, expansion of light rail service to Riverside South, a new transit corridor for Cumberland and a new downtown tunnel in which an environmental assessment study to be conducted whether light-rail or bus will use the tunnel. [ cite news|author = Ottawa Business Journal Staff| title = Ball teams, concert halls and trains, oh my! |publisher = Ottawa Business Journal | url =|date = November 29, 2007] It has not yet been determined how this plan will be funded.

Bribery allegations

On February 10, 2007, after A-Channel reported the same issue during the election, the "Ottawa Citizen" reported [ sworn allegations from Terry Kilrea] , who had dropped out of the mayoral race on August 30, 2006, that O'Brien had met with Kilrea twice and offered him a financial inducement of up to $30,000 and a political appointment if Kilrea would withdraw from the race and support O'Brien. Kilrea, who passed a polygraph test administered at the request of the Citizen, claimed he considered the offer and later rejected it. According to the Citizen, O'Brien acknowledged meeting with Kilrea but denied offering him cash to withdraw, although he did ask about Kilrea's financial position and "might have offered to buy his opponent's website". O'Brien also acknowledged discussing with his lawyer what his legal "options" might be to persuade Kilrea to drop out of the race, which in fact occurred, ultimately to O'Brien's political advantage (although Kilrea supported O'Brien's opponent Bob Chiarelli). Commenting on his rather vague recollection of the conversations which are central to Kilrea's allegations, Mayor O'Brien offered the Citizen the [ quotable but baffling remark] "I fell asleep on my boat in July drinking a beer and when I woke up I was the mayor of Ottawa. That's how fast it went."

O'Brien has been under investigation for bribery by the OPP since March 27 in connection with the allegations. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Terry Kilrea sent correspondence to the federal Minister of the Environment John Baird concerning a possible appointment if he dropped out of the mayoral race. [citenews|url=|title=O'Brien bribery probe reaches PM's inner circle|publisher=The Ottawa Citizen|date=2007-10-12|accessdate|2007-12-10]

In October 2007 the story became national when Liberal leader Stéphane Dion made a series of allegations against the Conservative Party. [citenews|url=
title=Grits attack Tories over advertising scheme|date=2007-10-17|accessdate=2007-12-10|publisher=CanWest News Service
] The allegations included the fact that Larry O'Brien had bribed Terry Kilrea to step down during the 2006 municipal election. The connection to the Conservative Party was Doug Finley, the campaign director for the party. The money which was to be given to Terry Kilrea was to be given to him through Finley. [citenews|url=|title=O'Brien bribery probe reaches PM's inner circle|publisher=The Ottawa Citizen|date=2007-10-12|accessdate|2007-12-10]

On December 10, 2007, the OPP charged O'Brien for two offenses under the Criminal Code of Canada. [citenews|title=Ottawa mayor charged in bribery probe|date=2007-12-10|accessdate=2007-12-10|url=|] The charges stated that:

A special meeting was held when O'Brien asked council and the public whether he should step down but a city solicitor warned the councillors not to discuss the issue in public and the meeting was quickly adjourned. [cite news|author = CBC Ottawa|title = Ottawa council should stay mum on charges against mayor: lawyer|publisher = CBC|url =|date = December 10, 2007] On the following day, he mentioned that he would not step down as mayor despite the charges and his first court date was scheduled for January 9, 2008 [ cite news|author = Rupert, Jake, | title =O'Brien declares he's staying on as mayor |publisher = The Ottawa Citizen| url = | date = December 11, 2007 ] On February 20, it was reported that the trial will be in 2009 from April 6 to June 12. He stated that he will temporarily step aside during the trial; councillors Diane Deans and Michel Bellemare, in their capacity as deputy mayors of the city, will serve as acting mayors for one month each. [ cite news|author = Dimmock, Gary & Daubs, Katie|title = Mayor says he'll step aside during bribery trial | publisher = The Ottawa Citizen|url =|date = February 20, 2008]

Transformation campaign

On April 18, 2007, O'Brien launched a 1,000-day transformation campaign in which it will review on how the city's services are made as well as the decisions are made at City Hall. The issue was the fourth of his "T-plan" which included taxes, transit and trash. He also planned several meetings in the following weeks outside City Hall. His strategy was met with criticism by several councilors, organizations and former mayor Marion Dewar who were concerned that there will be no consultations with the public. [cite news | author = CBC Ottawa| title = Mayor faces backlash over closed-door meetings | publisher = CBC | url = | date= April 19, 2007 ] [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = Mayor launches 1,000-day transformation campaign |publisher = CBC | url = | date= April 19, 2007 ]

Pigeon Gate

On April 19, 2007, O'Brien made comments on CFRA's Madely in the Morning suggesting that panhandlers were pigeons and a pest problem. He suggested that to address the problem people must starve them of resources to fix the drug problem and get them out. He also accused the Mayor of Perth of bussing homeless into Ottawa. The issue continued during the next few days with the Mayor of Perth, John Fenik, mentioned that O'Brien's comments were "dangerous because he takes a complex issue and makes it one dimensional". [cite news | author = Hebert, Alex | title = 'Pigeons' plague O'Brien | publisher = Ottawa Sun | url = | date= April 25, 2007 ] Fenik, also requested an apology from O'Brien but the two haven't yet discussed the issue. O'Brien's then-Chief of Staff Walter Robinson later clarified that O'Brien was making reference to the panhandling issues in the downtown and Byward Market areas.

On April 25, 2007 Canada's Youth Diversity Initiative organized an educational demonstration at Ottawa City Hall and distributing fliers to passersby and city employees. The group had also requested that the mayor be more sensitive to the plight of the homeless. [ cite news | author = CBC Ottawa | title = 'Pigeons' squawk over mayor's comments on homeless | publisher = CBC | url = | date= April 25, 2007 ]

On May 1, 2007, May Day, a hundred members and supporters of the Ottawa Panhandlers' Union descended on the Bank Street Promenade Business Improvement Area to protest O'Brien's comments, citing what they claim is the BIAs' influence at Ottawa City Hall in inciting the anti-panhandler rhetoric. [ cite news | author = Metro News Ottawa | title = Panhandlers threaten to shut down Bank Street|url = | date= May 2, 2007 ]

July 1, 2007 saw the beginning of the fourth Homeless Action Strike. The strike location is right in front of O'Brien's office window at Ottawa City Hall. Several homeless and formerly homeless protestors are camping 24 hours per day 5 days a week demanding O'Brien to resolve a number of issues with the homeless including the pigeon and seagull comments, the Hostels to Homes program O'Brien put in at the Union Mission and the need for a public health committee to put a stop to right wing city councillors doing things like cancelling the crack pipe program which front line workers claim is very effective in stopping decease and promoting guidance into drug treatment. Alternatively the group wants O'Brien's resignation.Fact|date=April 2008POV-statement|date=April 2008

The first 12 days police and city bylaw harassed Jane Scharf and eventually the police decided that she had the right to protest and the harassment ended. The mayor has attempted to negotiate after police refused to remove the protestors. O'Brien offered an apology if the strikers would leave. The group says this is too little too late. They want all their demands met.Fact|date=April 2008POV-statement|date=April 2008

On July 12, 2007, Ian Houston and Conrad Gray joined the strike and added the issue about the cancelled crack pipe program. They are pushing for the task force to look at the public health committee which would deal with medical issues such as the crack pipe issue. Houston and Gray also slept over at the strike location each weekday evening.Fact|date=April 2008

2008 budget

In August 2007, the City was facing a significant budget shortfall of over $80 million for the year 2008. Despite his engagement for a tax freeze, O'Brien proposed a 2% tax-levy until 2010 for infrastructure projects which would give an additional $180 million in revenues for the city. [ cite news|author = Puddicombe, Derek|title =Zero down and out |publisher = Ottawa Sun|url =|date = August 28, 2007 ] He also presented a motion in which he would acquire more municipal responsibilities (such as city contracts and hiring) in an attempt to improve the control of city expenses which increased rapidly since the 2001 amalgamation. [cite web|author = Bertrand, Jean-Francois|title = Mayor moves to take control|publisher = The Ottawa Citizen|url = | date= September 1, 2007 ] [ cite news|author = Rupert, Jake|title = O'Brien backs off on approval authority plan|publisher = The Ottawa Citizen|url =|date = September 4, 2007 ] [ cite news|author = Rupert, Jake| title = Committee endorses mayor's plan for greater spending control|publisher = The Ottawa Citizen | url = | date= 2007-09-18] and later presented a financial plan including measures proposed to make the city more cost-effective by finding administrative cost savings and the selling of Hydro Ottawa. [ cite news|author = Drake, Laura & Rupert, Jake|title = Mayor to announce privatization plans|publisher = The Ottawa Citizen|url =|date = November 7, 2007 ] [cite news|author = O'Brien, Larry|title = Text of the Mayor's Speech | publisher = Ottawa Sun|url =|date = November 7, 2007] [ cite news|author = CBC Ottawa|title = Sell Hydro, contract out to balance budget: Ottawa mayor|publisher = CBC|url =|date = November 7, 2007] [cite news|author = O'Brien, Larry|title = The mayor's letter to the people|publisher = The Ottawa Sun|url =|date = November 16, 2007 O'Brien's letter.] City staff mentionned that a tax freeze would have resulted in the closing of several community centres, 9 public libraries, as well fire stations, daycare centers, skating arenas and swimming pools as well as major cuts to transit service and a significant transit fare hike. [ cite news|author = Piunno, Andrea|title = Major Cuts Needed for Tax Freeze|publisher = A-Channel Ottawa|url =|date = November 8 ,2007]

The budget was approved unanimously by Council and resulted in a 4.9% tax increase including 1.4% coming from the police force budget, 2% for the infrastructure levy and 1.5% from capital and operation costs. The budget also included a 7.5% OC Transpo fare increase until 2010 and various user fee increases such as rents and parking spaces and various cost cuts. [ cite news|author = Rupert, Jake & Dare, Patrick | title = 4.9% tax hike 'a little off zero' | publisher = The Ottawa Citizen|url = | date = December 13, 2007 ] O'Brien and much of the Council had stated prior to the budget talks that cuts to essential services such as community centers, libraries and transit were unacceptable. [ cite news|author = CBC Ottawa|title = No cuts to libraries, transit: Ottawa mayor|publisher = CBC| url =|date = November 28, 2007]

now tax levy

During the 2007-08 winter season, the city received 425 centimeters of snow (as of March 21), making it the second snowiest winter on record behind the 1970-71 season which saw 444 centimeters of snow. The heavy snowfall caused a major budget shortfall for snow removal operations which some estimates being at 23 million dollars. Following snow storms which dumped one meter of snow in a one-week period in early March, O'Brien proposed a one-time tax levy of 50$ per household in order to balance the budget. [cite news|author = CTV Ottawa|title = Mayor proposes new snow tax|publisher = | url =| date = March 19, 2008] As the proposal was met with heavy opposition from many citizens and councilors, it was defeated during City Council meeting on March 26, 2008 as it opted for eliminating the deficit by using provincial infrastructure funding announced in the 2008 budget and money from the sale of Telecom Ottawa. [ cite news|author = Rupert, Jake|title = No snow levy|publisher = Ottawa Citizen|url =|date = March 26, 2008]

ee also

*Ottawa municipal election, 2006
*Terry Kilrea


External links

* [ Personal website]
* [ Ottawa Citizen section on Larry O'Brien]

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