A high-profile player in municipal politics has entered the race for mayor, threatening to take away votes from Mayor Larry O'Brien.

Former Ottawa-Carleton regional chair Andrew Haydon, 77, came out swinging Friday, insisting the city needs to scrap its plans for light rail and stick with buses.

"I'd hate to see my favourite community, which is this whole area, making terrible, terrible financial decisions and the light rail is only one of them and that's a bad, bad decision, very expensive. It doesn't work very well and it will lose ridership," Haydon told CTV Ottawa.

"We should be getting back to basics, not trying to fulfill our wants, but trying to fulfill our needs and that's how you keep your budget under control."

The issues

Haydon, who built Ottawa's Transitway, has been highly critical of the city's $2.1-billion light rail plan. Although he says a downtown tunnel is needed, he wants it to be used for buses, not light rail.

"If you go with high technology, high capacity buses, you'll end up with $1.4 billion left over."

Although Haydon is passionate about transit, he insists he won't be a one-issue candidate.

"The whole process of government needs to be revised at the city. You can't have contracts not going through elected people; you can't have your staff awarding contracts and consultants with not going to council, that all has to change," he said.

Haydon adds he also supports the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, and wants to make changes to the way OC Transpo is managed.

20 candidates

Haydon, who refers to himself as a fiscal conservative, joins a long list of other candidates vying for the mayor's chair: 20 people will be on the ballot.

With two right-leaning candidates in the race, those on the other side say a vote for Haydon could help defeat the mayor.

"It's been a very good week for us. I would have never dreamed that Andy would come back. It's good news for our campaign for sure," said mayoral candidate Clive Doucet.

Meanwhile, Jim Watson said residents want change, and he's looking forward to hearing Haydon's ideas.

"They really want to turn the page on the past and move forward. No question, Mr. Haydon is a great contributor and I certainly look forward to his ideas as well," Watson said.

Haydon and O'Brien

Haydon was quick to take shots at his main opponent Friday, criticizing O'Brien's promise of ‘Zero means Zero.'

"I think it's a little sad that he tries to go personal right away. I personally have a great deal of respect. He's a nice gentleman, and politicians, they never really retire," O'Brien said.

Haydon and O'Brien are no strangers. O'Brien hired Haydon to be his political advisor shortly after he was elected to office. However, Haydon said his advice was largely ignored.

Political past

Haydon was regional chair of Ottawa-Carleton from 1978-1991. Before that, he was reeve of Nepean Township, and served as the first mayor of the City of Nepean for six days.

Haydon has deep roots in the community, and is credited with building the Nepean Sportsplex and the National Capital Equestrian Park.

City council chambers at Ottawa City Hall are also named after him, as is a park overlooking the Ottawa River.

Haydon's last brush with politics was in 2006 when he ran for council against Steve Desroches in the Gloucester-South Nepean ward.

Desroches won that race with 39.7 per cent of the vote. Haydon was the runner-up with 28.7 per cent support.

Haydon registered for the mayor's race at 9 a.m. Friday, the last day to sign up to run for public office.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua