Wynne to tes­tify in Lib­eral trial

On­tario premier to take the stand in bribery trial

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NATIONAL NEWS - AL­LI­SON JONES

A court­room in Sud­bury, Ont., will play host Wed­nes­day to the rare sight of a sit­ting premier on the stand as Kath­leen Wynne tes­ti­fies in a bribery trial in­volv­ing a for­mer top ad­viser and a Lib­eral fundraiser.

Pat Sor­bara, the premier’s for­mer deputy chief of staff and Lib­eral cam­paign di­rec­tor, and Gerry Lougheed, a lo­cal Lib­eral or­ga­nizer, are charged un­der the Elec­tion Act, ac­cused of of­fer­ing would-be can­di­date An­drew Olivier a job or ap­point­ment to get him to step aside for Wynne’s pre­ferred can­di­date in a 2015 by­elec­tion in the north­ern city.

That pre­ferred can­di­date was then-NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who ended up win­ning that by­elec­tion for the pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als and is now en­ergy min­is­ter.

Sor­bara is also fac­ing a sec­ond charge, in re­la­tion to an al­le­ga­tion she ar­ranged for paid jobs on the by­elec­tion cam­paign for two of Thibeault’s con­stituency staff, at his re­quest. Both Sor­bara and Lougheed have pleaded not guilty.

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.

Wynne also faces no charges, but will be likely asked to tes­tify about what she told Olivier and what con­ver­sa­tions she had with Lougheed and Sor­bara prior to their con­ver­sa­tions with him.

Olivier is quad­ri­plegic and of­ten records im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions as a form of note tak­ing, and has posted the au­dio of his con­ver­sa­tions with Lougheed and Sor­bara.

Lougheed told Olivier that the premier and Sor­bara wanted to present him with “ap­point­ments, jobs, what­ever,” as he con­sid­ers step­ping aside. Sor­bara told him he should de­cide if he was in­ter­ested in “a full-time or part-time job at a con­stituency of­fice … ap­point­ments to boards or com­mis­sions.”

Wynne called Olivier in be­tween those two con­ver­sa­tions, but he has tes­ti­fied that tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties pre­vented him from record­ing that call.

The premier has pre­vi­ously said 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.

That trial — and a sec­ond Lib­eral case in Toronto on al­le­ga­tions of il­le­gally deleted doc­u­ments in for­mer premier Dal­ton McGuinty’s of­fice re­lated to two can­celled gas plants — have over­shad­owed the re­turn of the leg­is­la­ture this week.

The NDP used al­most all of their time in the first ques­tion pe­riod to ask about the tri­als. The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives took a cheekier ap­proach Tues­day, say­ing the Lib­er­als weren’t go­ing to an­swer their ques­tions on the tri­als any­way, but still man­aged to slip in ref­er­ences in most of their un­re­lated ques­tions.

“I couldn’t ask about Lib­eral po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion,” PC Leader Pa­trick Brown said out­side the House. “I couldn’t ask about the al­le­ga­tions on bribery. The at­tor­ney gen­eral gets up and they waste the time in the leg­is­la­ture by try­ing to avoid an­swer­ing any of the ques­tions on th­ese very se­ri­ous, se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions.”

The Lib­er­als have said that the court, not the leg­is­la­ture, is the proper place to an­swer such ques­tions.

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath said she hopes Wynne’s tes­ti­mony sheds more light on the scan­dal.

“There are a lot of unan­swered ques­tions and I would hope that to­mor­row the premier starts com­ing clean for On­tar­i­ans to see ex­actly what role she played as the premier and as the leader of her party in what has be­come a very odi­ous scan­dal,” Hor­wath said.

DAVE ABEL/TORONTO

Premier Kath­leen Wynne speaks dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod at Queen’s Park in Toronto, Ont. on Tues­day.

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