Rick Chiarelli was born and raised in College Ward. He grew up in a small business family. Rick and his wife Lida (nee Fiala), who also grew up in College Ward, live in Lynwood with their three daughters.
Rick has a B.A. degree in Communications and a B.S.Sc. degree in Economics. He also received his Law Degree from the University of Ottawa.
Rick’s interest in local issues is long-standing. He was a young political activist and achieved Province-wide notoriety early on. While still a teenager, Rick became the youngest person elected in Ontario.
When Rick was in his early teens, Catholic schools, which constitute 1/3 of the Ontario school system, were only funded to grade 10 and families were forced to pay tuition in the upper high school years. This was happening despite the fact that the Constitution guaranteed a dual public school system consisting of equal treatment of Cathoilic schools with the non-denominational public school system. Rick formed a 70,000 member province-wide alliance of high school students that took the Ontario Government to court seeking fair funding as promised as a founding principle of Confederation. The five year, high profile fight played a role in the Provincial Government’s decision to grant equal funding and, ultimately, the case Rick’s group presented won a unanimous victory in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Later, Rick completed three terms on Nepean City Council where he also served as Acting Mayor. He was the founding Co-Chair of the area’s first Environment Committee. As a member of Nepean’s General Policy and Administration Committee, he helped freeze and cut taxes for seven consecutive years. With fellow Councillors, he staunchly defended the “no borrowing” policy (“Pay-As-You-Go Policy”) that made Nepean debt-free. This now famous policy was initiated by Andy Haydon and institutionalized by Ben Franklin.
Early in his time on Nepean Council Rick was a founding Co-Chair of the City’s Anti-impaired Driving Committee. He worked with others to develop an Alcohol-free New Year’s Eve project. The effort was so successful that it became an annual event that continues to this day and has been voted “Best place to be on New Year’s Eve” by a CTV Ottawa poll. While the first one entertained hundreds of people, it now attracts thousands who take in free sleigh rides, music, magic shows, dance showcases, skating parties and, of course, fireworks. It remains one of Ottawa’s most successful anti-impaired driving projects that has been partnered with MADD and sponsored by IKEA through the years.
In the late 1990s Rick was one of the most severe critics of amalgamation and led a campaign to inform residents of the pitfalls of the merger plan. Residents were convinced and a referendum in Nepean resulted in over 86% voting “no” to joining all 11 former cities into one mega-city. Despite the referendum results, the Provincial Government imposed amalgamation anyway and Rick made good on his promise to run for the new Council to help ensure the best outcome possible for residents.
As a Councillor with the new City of Ottawa, Rick represented a ward that was double the size of the ward he had represented in Nepean. It included both Rick’s previous Nepean Centre ward and old Ottawa’s previous Carleton ward.
In the new Ottawa Rick took on a number of responsibilities with a city-wide focus. He was elected to Chair Council’s Long Range Financial Planning Committee. The plan it produced was cited by officials at Moody’s Investment Services as one of the key reasons the City was given a AAA credit rating – the plan was designed to gradually lead the new Ottawa towards more of a Nepean-style finance system. Progress was made toward that goal. He also chaired the City’s only Core Service Review which identified a number of cuts and realignments that could make local government more efficient and gave Council an opportunity to reinvent local services over the next decade. Some of these measures were adopted.
Rick was also chosen to Chair the 15-member Ottawa Public Library Board during its difficult time of amalgamation (2000-2006). The result of the team effort he led: Library services were the only part of amalgamation which emerged with fewer employees and a higher level of service as compared to the pre-amalgamation period. Following this overwhelming success, Rick and the new Ottawa Public Library were honoured in Toronto by the Ontario Library Association. They granted Rick and the Library Board a Special Provincial Award for Exceptional Achievement and extraordinary leadership and creativity during amalgamation.
Midway through his second term on Ottawa Council, Rick supported the creation of the office of Auditor General to help identify financial abuses within the larger amalgamated bureaucracy and to find efficiencies and real savings for taxpayers.
Contrary to the assumptions of many, the annual reports from the Auditor General do not just sit on a shelf, and Rick Chiarelli is one of the people who makes sure that doesn’t happen.
Rick is Chair of the Audit committee which successfully oversees senior City management to ensure that the hundreds of recommendations made each year by the Auditor General are actually implemented to protect taxpayers’ money. Follow-up audits, looking at the implementation of the AG’s recommendations prove our problems are being fixed at a success rate that other cities can only dream of.
Audit committee also recommends which audits that the Auditor General will undertake and also audits the auditor’s office itself.
Rick has also made significant strides in other areas. He is one of the driving forces behind the rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park. He played a key role in saving the Ottawa baseball stadium from liquidation by attracting interest among minor professional baseball clubs to keep baseball going in Ottawa. He did this as part of an effort to keep in public ownership a facility taxpayers had already paid for – so it could be enjoyed by residents for years to come.
Recently Rick led one of the most productive public consultation efforts in the City’s history, the Centrepointe Town Centre community design process. Hundreds of residents, businesses, developers, institutions, landowners and others met over a significant period of time to develop plans that will guide the way the Baseline/Woodroffe area takes shape for the next 60 years. Through the entire exercise Rick provided guidance and creative suggestions to ensure the emerging vision would make the best use of opportunities available through infrastructure funding programs and through the City’s various strategic planning initiatives.
The result was an imaginative, synergistic plan that will make Centrepointe and area a true “hub” for the entire west end of Ottawa. Nearly everybody loves the plan and is excited as its various features are rapidly being built and opened.
The new transit tunnel from Baseline to Norice Street is the spine of the new design. Our City’s first truly below ground transit station will soon open and link to the new pedestrian safety bridge we just build over Woodroffe. That, in turn, links the newly constructed Algonquin trades building with the college’s main campus and connects all transit users with the other side of Woodroffe. A new main street and piazza will line the new Centrepointe’s eastern profile and connect coffee shops and restaurants with the newly opened second stage at the Centrepointe Theatres and several new institutional buildings. The plan ensures that all of this will happen without increasing the number of cars traveling neighbourhood streets.
Rick is taking the same creative approach to other parts of College Ward. He worked with City staff to turn what should have been a negative (contaminated soil under the community building on private property) into a positive. He worked on a plan to get the City to buy the site, clean up it up, build a new community building, expand the adjoining parkland and to pay back much of the cost by constructing and selling adult lifestyle bungalows, allowing residents to downsize but remain in the neighbourhood they love so much.
In 2007, Bells Corners fell within Rick’s jurisdiction for the first time and he has begun an ambitious program to renew that part of town for residents and businesses. It is already producing positive results.
A new business improvement association has been working for over a year now. A retail gap analysis has been commissioned and a new focus had been identified for the business sector. New sidewalks have been constructed, a new signalized intersection at Timm Drive has been built to keep traffic moving on Scotia Bank Place event nights,. Street appearance has been improved, new businesses have been attracted to the area and, with the Federal Government moving DND headquarters to Moodie Drive, Bells Corners has an opportunity to recapture some of its lost customer base. In addition to all of this, planning is underway to present significant customer-attracting showcase events in Bells Corners. Rick has also begun working with stakeholder groups and residents to formulate a vision for the future development of the Bells Corners community, area planning and public amenities.
In 2010 Rick thanked the people of College Ward for re-electing him by a significant majority, giving him more votes than any other candidate or Councillor in any other ward.
On the new Council, Rick is a member of the powerful Finance and Economic Development Committee, Planning Committee,Community and Protective Services Committee, Film Development Corporation and other boards and commissions.