Sep 16 2019

Wynne to meet election officials over claims of byelection misconduct

WATCH: Alan Carter reports that Premiere Wynne will meet with Elections Ontario about the misconduct claims during the Sudbury byelection.

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne and a senior Liberal official will meet with Elections Ontario this week in an investigation into claims of improper behaviour in a byelection.

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Wynne asked Andrew Olivier, the Liberals’ candidate in Sudbury, Ont., in last June’s general election, not to seek the nomination for the Feb. 5 byelection there because she had another preferred candidate.

Olivier has alleged that the Liberals offered him a job or appointment in exchange for his stepping aside for Glenn Thibeault, who left his job as an NDP MP to run for the provincial Liberals.

The Ontario New Democrats asked Elections Ontario to investigate, pointing to the Election Act, which makes it an offence to promise a job or appointment to induce a person to withdraw their candidacy.

This week, Elections Ontario will meet with Wynne and Ontario Liberal campaign director Pat Sorbara, the Liberal party said in a statement Monday.

Wynne said Monday she is “pleased” Elections Ontario is moving forward.

“We knew that there had been a request, we knew that there had been some concerns,” she said.

“We’ve been very clear about what the interaction was, that there were no specific offers made in requests for any specific action, that many of the allegations that have been made by the opposition parties are false and so I’m pleased that Elections Ontario is going to move ahead and get this dealt with.”

Olivier, who is quadriplegic and records conversations in lieu of taking notes, released audio of his talks with two Liberals, including Sorbara. Wynne has said she doesn’t know if her conversation with Olivier was recorded too, but if so, any audio would confirm what she has said all along, that they were encouraging Olivier to stay involved with the party, but no specific offers or commitments were made.

The Liberals say Olivier’s recordings vindicate them, as they were discussing ways Olivier could remain involved in the party or with accessibility work, but only after he was already told he wouldn’t be the candidate.

In one of the recordings he posted to YouTube, a man he identified as Gerry Lougheed, a Liberal and chairman of Sudbury’s police services board, says he is there on behalf of the premier to ask if he would consider stepping aside and nominating Thibeault, and telling Olivier they want to give him options “in terms of appointments, jobs or whatever.”

Lougheed is neither a government nor Liberal staff member and speaks for himself, the premier’s office has said.

In a statement to local media, Lougheed said that he does not have the authority to offer jobs and “at no time” did he promise Olivier a job or appointment if he stepped aside.

Sorbara called Olivier the next day and suggested Wynne had all but decided to appoint Thibeault as the candidate in favour of an open nomination race.

“We should have the broader discussion about what is it that you’d be most interested in doing, then decide what shape that could take that would fulfil that, is what I’m getting at, whether it’s a full-time or part-time job at a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments to boards or commissions, whether it is also going on the (party executive),” Sorbara said.

The Ontario Provincial Police concluded the Liberals did nothing criminal, but the force is reviewing new information since the recordings came to light.

Olivier is now running in the byelection as an independent.

The Sudbury seat was vacated in November by New Democrat Joe Cimino, who resigned after just five months as a member of provincial parliament. The seat was previously a long-held Liberal riding and Sorbara told Olivier the premier is desperate – “desperate in a good way” – to get it back.


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