Ottawa police Chief Vern White is headed to the Senate as one of seven new appointments named Friday afternoon.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a news release that White, head of Ottawa police since May 2007, would fill an Ontario vacancy in the Senate effective Feb. 20.

"I think I've made a difference in this community," White said. "I see now maybe an opportunity to make a difference differently, I look at some of the work that's come out of the Senate whether it's work on national security, work on mental health which is a spectacular document with more chapters to be written . . . I see some opportunities."

White said he got the call over the Christmas break while he was on vacation in Finland and accepted.

The City of Ottawa Friday congratulated White on his new role.

"Anytime you're the chief of a large city's police department you're going to please some people and displease other people, but on the whole I think he's done a very very good job," said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. "He's been a very progressive chief of police, has respect of the officers, there's no question he's worked hard to engrain himself in the community."

Watson added White will not receive severance pay as he leaves his job with the city.

White had his contract extended by the City of Ottawa to May 2015 in July. The contract had previously been set to expire in May of this year.

"I was surprised, we thought we had him for another five years," Watson said. "He's done a lot and we wanted to keep him."

During his time in Ottawa, White helped raise millions of dollars for the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre and also had to deal with controversy over the actions of his officers caught on cellblock video.

"The manner in which we handled that cell block incident was spectacular," White said. "We changed this organization upside down."

Before that, he was head of the Regional Police Service in Durham, east of Toronto, and a 20-year member of the RCMP.

Eli El-Chantiri chairs the Ottawa Police Services Board and said he's wishing White the best.

"Ottawa is losing a leader who worked hard to build a better police force," he said in a news release. "His efforts reached beyond traditional policing, as demonstrated by his leadership in working to expand youth drug treatment programs in our City."

CTV Ottawa's bureau Chief Robert Fife said White got the job because he was the only police chief in the country to support the Conservative bid to scrap the gun registry.

"He was originally being pushed by foreign affairs minister John Baird to see if he could become the RCMP commissioner," Fife said. "That didn't work out for him, so he got the Senate plum instead."

White will take a pay cut from his approximately $250,000 salary as chief to $133,000, the base salary for a senator.

White, 52, told CTV Ottawa that he doesn't anticipate being in the Senate until the mandatory retirement age of 75.

The other six appointments are:

  • JoAnne Buth, Canola Council of Canada
  • Norman Doyle, former Conservative MP in Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Ghislian Maltais, former Quebec MNA
  • Dr. Asha Seth, Toronto Obstetrician and Gynecologist
  • Betty Unger, elected Senator in Alberta
  • Jean-Guy Dagenais (intended appointment), former Quebec policeman and federal Conservative candidate in Quebec

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Stefanie Masotti