Wynne to tes­tify at trial of pair fac­ing bribery charges

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALLISON JONES

TORONTO — Kath­leen Wynne will tes­tify as a Crown wit­ness at an up­com­ing Elec­tion Act bribery trial for two Lib­er­als, putting the On­tario premier di­rectly in the spot­light of an al­ready po­lit­i­cally charged case.

Wynne could in­voke par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege to avoid tes­ti­fy­ing, but will not, she said Tues­day.

“I will tes­tify, I will go along with the process and do what I can to clar­ify, as I have in the leg­is­la­ture many, many, many times,” she said.

Pat Sor­bara, the premier’s for­mer deputy chief of staff, faces two bribery charges un­der the Elec­tion Act, and Gerry Lougheed, a Lib­eral fundraiser, faces one charge. Their trial is set to start Sept. 7 and last sev­eral weeks. That could mean a ver­dict is de­liv­ered just months be­fore the June 2018 elec­tion.

The pair is ac­cused of of­fer­ing a would-be can­di­date, Andrew Olivier, a job or ap­point­ment to get him to step aside in a 2015 by­elec­tion in Sud­bury for Wynne’s pre­ferred can­di­date, Glenn Thibeault.

At the time, Thibeault was a New Demo­crat MP. He is now the en­ergy min­is­ter.

Though Wynne is be­ing called as a wit­ness by the Crown, she has said that she had al­ready de­cided Olivier would not be the by­elec­tion can­di­date and as a re­sult there was no need to of­fer him any­thing in ex­change for not run­ning.

Sor­bara and Lougheed both deny the charges.

Lougheed had been charged crim­i­nally, with one count of coun­selling an of­fence not com­mit­ted and one count of un­law­fully in­flu­enc­ing or ne­go­ti­at­ing ap­point­ments, but those charges were stayed last year.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was sparked by record­ings made by Olivier, who was the Lib­eral can­di­date in Sud­bury dur­ing the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion. As a quad­ri­plegic man who of­ten records his con­ver­sa­tions in lieu of tak­ing notes, Olivier recorded chats he had with Sor­bara and Lougheed. Tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties pre­vented him from record­ing a call he had with Wynne her­self.

The bribery sec­tion of the Elec­tion Act says no per­son shall di­rectly or in­di­rectly “give, pro­cure or prom­ise or agree to pro­cure an of­fice or em­ploy­ment to in­duce a per­son to be­come a can­di­date, re­frain from be­com­ing a can­di­date or with­draw his or her can­di­dacy.”

A con­vic­tion un­der the bribery sec­tion of the Elec­tion Act car­ries a penalty of up to $5,000. When the charges were laid in Novem­ber, Sor­bara had re­cently taken a leave of ab­sence as the premier’s deputy chief of staff to be­come the On­tario Lib­eral Party CEO and 2018 cam­paign di­rec­tor. She stepped down af­ter be­ing charged.

A sec­ond Lib­eral trial is set to start just days apart in Toronto.

David Liv­ingston and Laura Miller, who were then-premier Dal­ton McGuinty’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, face charges of breach of trust, and mis­chief in re­la­tion to data and mis­use of a com­puter sys­tem to com­mit the of­fence of mis­chief.

They were charged af­ter a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the dele­tion of emails about the Lib­er­als’ de­ci­sion to can­cel two gas plants prior to the 2011 elec­tion, at a cost of up to $1.1 bil­lion.

Both Miller and Liv­ingston have de­nied the charges. Their trial is set for Sept. 11.

JA­SON FRANSON, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne could in­voke par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege to avoid tes­ti­fy­ing at a bribery trial, but will not.

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