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Ottawa mayor never flaunted influence with Baird, defence says

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien never pretended to have influence with federal cabinet minister John Baird, Mr. O'Brien's lawyer said yesterday at his client's trial on influence-peddling charges.

But lawyer Michael Edelson painted a picture of close political and personal ties between Mr. Baird and the Crown's chief witness in the case, Terry Kilrea.

Mr. Baird appeared to be deeply involved behind the scenes in Ottawa's 2006 municipal race, according to e-mails produced by the O'Brien legal team.

The Conservative cabinet minister is to testify at the trial today.

Mr. O'Brien has pleaded not guilty to charges that he offered to arrange a federal appointment for his fellow right-of-centre candidate if Mr. Kilrea would quit the mayoral race.

The deal was allegedly to have been made possible by Mr. Baird and other senior federal Tories.

Defence lawyer Michael Edelson spent a sixth straight day yesterday cross-examining Mr. Kilrea and has still not finished.

Mr. Edelson suggested it was Mr. Kilrea who raised the prospect of a National Parole Board job with Mr. O'Brien, not the other way around, and that Mr. Kilrea wanted to pursue his "dream" appointment.

Mr. Kilrea denied that.

Mr. Edelson then grilled Mr. Kilrea at length about whether Mr. O'Brien ever expressly indicated he had influence with Mr. Baird, who was in charge of all appointments for the Harper government in Eastern Ontario.

"Did he ever say he had influence? No," responded Mr. Kilrea.

"But I was under the impression that I was to see John Baird because he was the guy that was going to make this [appointment] happen. I'm just trying to tell you what your client's words were."

Mr. Edelson shot back that "the bottom line is that Mr. O'Brien never represented to you in any way, shape or form that he, O'Brien, had any influence with John Baird to make an appointment happen."

Mr. Baird did appear to have influence on Mr. Kilrea, however, the defence lawyer contended.

A municipal transit plan became the central issue of the 2006 mayoral campaign, with the incumbent Bob Chiarelli - a former Liberal adversary of Mr. Baird - backing a light-rail project.

Mr. Baird's mid-campaign refusal to sign off on previously committed federal funding turned the race into a light-rail referendum.

"Were you not dealing directly with Mr. Baird on light rail?" Mr. Edelson asked Mr. Kilrea.

He then produced an e-mail exchange under the subject "O-train" in which Mr. Kilrea thanked Mr. Baird for his intervention.

"Bob seems to be starting to feel the heat!!!" Mr. Baird responded.

Mr. Edelson also showed evidence that Mr. Kilrea's team was working with Mr. Baird and Tory MP Pierre Poilievre, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary, to have Conservative students do flyer drops for the Kilrea campaign.

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