The ‘Liberal Dimension’ – Bob Chiarelli: background to the ‘influence-peddling’ trial of Ottawa’s ‘Mayor Larry’

Larry O’Brien, the hi-tech entrepreneur-turned-Mayor of Ottawa, is facing charges of ‘influence-peddling’ stemming from his alleged actions in the 2006 Ottawa Municipal Election.

I would like to stress the words ‘alleged actions’…

The trial started this week and the first day was spent on whether to allow ‘live blogging’ (yes – don’t make rulings you cannot enforce) and CBC broadcasting (no – they asked so late, it’s insulting) of the proceedings.

On the second day, Justice J. Douglas Cunningham – who is presiding – heard arguments from both the Crown and the Defense about the rules under which ‘hearsay evidence’ ought to be allowed (or not) – it would appear that ‘hearsay evidence’ forms the bulk of the Crown’s case!

Who would have thunk it, that a highly respected judge might have to spend a whole week pondering about the admissibility of ‘hearsay’ in his courtroom – in a country where ‘hearsay’ is specifically banned from use in any judicial proceedings – with the ‘special’ exemption only for the ‘Human Rights’ Commissions!

But, that is not what this post is about…

Rather, this whole ‘mess’ is taking place in the deep dark shadow cast by the ‘Liberal Machine’!


I have touched on a little bit of the ‘deep background’ by looking at the issues that dominated the 2000 and the 2003 elections in Ottawa –  and I need to cover a lot more before the pieces of this puzzle begin to form a coherent picture.

Still, in order to show the significance of the events, issues and how it all all meshes together, I think it is important to look at some ‘people connections’.  And, in the Capital of Canada, so long dominated by Liberal governments (with only a few Conservative interruptions), many of these ‘people connections’ are made through the ‘Liberal Machine’…

We have already seen that there is a ‘cross-over’ between the ‘strategists’ who advise Federal and Provincial Liberal politicians, especially during elections.  One such ‘famous crossover’ is Mr. Warren Kinsella, who is often credited with…

…but, let me back up a bit!

THE ‘big fish’ on the Ottawa scene has, for quite a while, been Bob Chiarelli: tenacious, ambitious and tough as nails…as well as a savvy, well-connected and ‘slippery’ politician.  He has lots of ‘street smarts’, too…

HIGHLY abridged bio of Bob Chiarelli – just hitting some of the highlights, with respect to ‘connections’ – and a lot of my never-humble-opinions liberally sprinkled in:

  • Born into a wealthy and prominent family in Ottawa’s ‘Little Italy’, he opened his law practice in 1969.
  • From 1987 to 1997, he held the Ottawa West seat in Ontario Provincial Legislature as a member of the Liberal Party of Ontario (LPO).
    • when first elected in 1987, the Liberals won and David Peterson (brother of the Jim Peterson, who was a federal Liberal MP under Trudeau, Turner, Chretien and Martin until his retirement in 2007 – and a supporter of both Turner and Martin) the LPO leader, became the Premier of Ontario
      • Chiarelli did not get a cabinet post in the Peterson government (rumours of resentment….)
      • during the 1987 provincial election, the seat for Ottawa South was won by a certain Professor Dalton McGuinty, Sr.
      • since the death of professor McGuinty in 1990, the Ottawa South seat has been inherited held by his son, Dalton McGuinty Jr.
    • In 1995, Peterson’s Liberals were defeated in the provincial election by the Mike Harris Conservatives and their ‘common sense revolution‘.  This put Mr. Chiarelli on the ‘opposition side’ of the House…
    • In the subsequent Liberal leadership race (1996), Bob Chiarelli supported (and helped) Dalton McGuinty’s successful bid to replace Peterson as the leader of the LPO
  • In 1997, Bob Chiarelli’s family was struck with a tragedy – his wife fell ill with cancer and succumbed to the disease.  Bob Chiarelli resigned his seat in order to be there for their kids…
  • Later on in 1997, Bob Chiarelli successfully ran for the Chair of the Region of Ottawa-Carleton:  at this time, the ‘greater Ottawa area’ was made up of a number of small communities as well as an over-arching ‘regional’ government:  it is the top position (the ‘chair’) of this over-arching government that Bob Chiarelli was elected to hold in 2007
    • The Provincial Conservatives (under Mike Harris) were big on eliminating ‘redundancy’
    • Bob Chiarelli heavily lobbied the Harris government to amalgamate all the municipalities of the Ottawa-Carleton region – as well as the regional govenrment – into one entity, The City of Ottawa.
    • He succeeded:  all the small, flexible municipalities as well as the ‘more shadowy’ regional government were amalgamated into The City of Ottawa in 2000.
  • In 2000, Bob Chiarelli was elected as the first Mayor of the amalgamated City of Ottawa
  • Brendan McGuinty was Chiarelli’s election strategist (he also acted as election strategist for his father, as well as his brothers Dalton and David – with the support of his brother Dylan – a land developer real estate lawyer and the acknowledged ‘family strategist’) and served as Bob Chiarelli’s Chief of Staff.

This is a BRIEF look at Mr. Bob Chiarelli – until the time when my narrative picks up (the 2000 municipal election – with its ‘Shawn Little affair’).  Yes, there are MANY omissions … and I will try to fill in the gaps … next post!

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