Bribery trial fo­cuses on ex-NDP MP

Court hears de­tails of al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing ex-NDP MP Glenn Thibeault

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - ONTARIO NEWS - AL­LI­SON JONES

SUD­BURY, Ont. — For­mer NDP MP Glenn Thibeault asked for paid jobs for con­stituency of­fice staffers in ex­change for run­ning in a provin­cial by­elec­tion that On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne was “de­ter­mined” to win, a Lib­eral bribery trial heard Thurs­day.

Pat Sor­bara, who was at the time the On­tario Lib­eral Party CEO, and Gerry Lougheed, a lo­cal Lib­eral fundraiser are ac­cused un­der the Elec­tion Act of of­fer­ing would-be can­di­date An­drew Olivier a job or ap­point­ment to get him to step aside for Thibeault, who was Wynne’s pre­ferred can­di­date in a 2015 by­elec­tion in Sud­bury, Ont.

Sor­bara is also fac­ing a sec­ond charge, in re­la­tion to an al­leged of­fer made to Thibeault to get him to be­come the can­di­date.

In ad­di­tion to the paid po­si­tions for two of his staffers, Thibeault wanted in­come re­place­ment for him­self and full sup­port of the On­tario Lib­er­als, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor David McKercher said in his open­ing state­ment.

Thibeault has pre­vi­ously de­nied he sought any­thing that would be seen as a bribe in ex­change for run­ning and is not charged with any of­fences.

Both Sor­bara and Lougheed pleaded not guilty Thurs­day.

Their lawyers say the Crown’s al­le­ga­tions wrongly use the term “can­di­date” in­ter­change­ably with “party nom­i­nee” and only can­di­dacy pro­cesses are gov­erned by the Elec­tion Act.

“The process that took place and what­ever may have oc­curred dur­ing those con­ver­sa­tions ... is not in re­la­tion to a can­di­date in the by­elec­tion but rather ex­clu­sively in re­la­tion to the Lib­eral nom­i­nee in that by­elec­tion,” said Sor­bara’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan.

“(Thibeault) was go­ing to be ap­pointed, as was her (Wynne’s) right un­der the Lib­eral con­sti­tu­tion,” said Lougheed’s lawyer, Michael Lacy. “There was never go­ing to be a con­tested nom­i­na­tion process in this rid­ing for that by­elec­tion. Mr. Olivier’s wish­ful think­ing in that re­gard does not trans­form him into a can­di­date for the pur­pose of the On­tario Elec­tion Act.”

The Lib­er­als had held the Sud­bury rid­ing for nearly two decades be­fore los­ing it in the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion to the NDP, but the New Demo­crat MPP stepped down months later for health rea­sons.

“The premier was de­ter­mined to win the Sud­bury seat back in the by­elec­tion,” McKercher said.

She didn’t think Olivier, the party’s can­di­date in the rid­ing in the re­cent gen­eral elec­tion, was the best chance for win­ning, in­stead pre­fer­ring Thibeault, he said.

“She was will­ing to ap­point him if nec­es­sary, but that was not her pre­ferred course. Mr. Thibeault him­self did not want an ap­point­ment,” and didn’t think he’d win open nom­i­na­tion against Olivier, McKercher said.

The Crown al­leges that is the con­text in which Sor­bara and Lougheed spoke to Olivier and of­fered him a job or ap­point­ment.

Be­cause Olivier is quad­ri­plegic he records im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions as a form of note tak­ing and pre­vi­ously posted that au­dio to YouTube.

Court heard Thurs­day that another con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Olivier and Sor­bara was very re­cently dis­cov­ered on Olivier’s phone, pre­dat­ing the other two chats and pre­dat­ing Wynne and Thibeault’s first meeting.

“You are the past can­di­date but you’re not the cur­rent can­di­date yet,” Sor­bara cau­tions near the end of the call.

Wynne ul­ti­mately ap­pointed Thibeault as the can­di­date, he won the by­elec­tion and has since been pro­moted to en­ergy min­is­ter.

The premier her­self is set to tes­tify on Wednesday.

She has said that she had al­ready de­cided Olivier would not be the by­elec­tion can­di­date by the time Sor­bara and Lougheed spoke to him, there­fore any­thing of­fered was not in ex­change for step­ping aside. Rather, Wynne says, she was try­ing to keep him in the party fold.

An Elec­tion Act bribery con­vic­tion car­ries a penalty of up to $5,000.

If a judge finds it was bro­ken “know­ingly,” the penalty is a fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to two years less a day in jail.

Gerry Lougheed leaves court dur­ing a break in an Elec­tion Act bribery trial in Sud­bury, Ont., Thurs­day. Lougheed, a lo­cal Lib­eral fundraiser, faces one charge.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pat Sor­bara ar­rives for a Elec­tion Act bribery trial in Sud­bury, Ont., Thurs­day. Sor­bara, who was at the time the On­tario Lib­eral Party CEO, faces two charges.

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