Re­tract or else, Wynne tells PC leader


TORONTO — On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne has asked the leader of the Op­po­si­tion to re­tract com­ments he made about her or face le­gal ac­tion.

The premier’s lawyers wrote a let­ter to Pa­trick Brown on Wed­nes­day, say­ing the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader had told re­porters that Wynne was stand­ing trial in a Lib­eral bribery case. The let­ter said Wynne is not on trial or even un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but is rather of­fer­ing vol­un­tary tes­ti­mony and co-op­er­at­ing with the court process, there­fore Brown should re­tract the com­ments and apol­o­gize.

Wynne’s of­fice made the let­ter pub­lic mo­ments be­fore the premier took the wit­ness stand in a trial in Sud­bury, for two for­mer Lib­eral staffers who are fac­ing bribery charges un­der the Elec­tion Act.

“She has gone so far as to waive her par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege and will vol­un­tar­ily ap­pear as a wit­ness at the trial, ” wrote the premier’s lawyer, Jack Siegel.

“There is a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween this high level of co-op­er­a­tion and your defam­a­tory ref­er­ence to ‘when she stands trial’; she is not on trial, and will con­tinue to take all nec­es­sary mea­sures to de­fend her rep­u­ta­tion.”

Brown made the com­ments on Tues­day when re­porters asked him to com­ment about the Sud­bury trial. He said the govern­ment was us­ing “leg­isla­tive tricks” dur­ing de­bate at Queen’s Park to avoid an­swer­ing ques­tions about the court pro­ceed­ings.

“I hope that the premier will give us an­swers, maybe when she stands trial,” he said. “That in it­self is as­ton­ish­ing, that we’ve got a sit­ting premier, sit­ting in trial an­swer­ing ques­tions about th­ese al­le­ga­tions of bribery, that in it­self is as­ton­ish­ing of (how) far this govern­ment has fallen.”

All that was needed now, said Wynne, was for Thibeault to say yes to the move. That de­vel­op­ment, she said, would mean Olivier and Matichuk would be asked to with­draw be­cause Thibeault, who was well known in Sud­bury, would have an ex­cel­lent chance of win­ning the by­elec­tion.

When Thibeault con­firmed Dec. 11 he would make the move, Wynne asked Lougheed, who knew Olivier, to talk to him and con­vince him to with­draw from seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion. When the two men talked that day, Wynne said Lougheed left with the im­pres­sion Olivier was still think­ing of purs­ing the nom­i­na­tion.

“He wasn’t the can­di­date and we wanted to keep him as a mem­ber of the Lib­eral fam­ily,” she said. “This was a dif­fi­cult moment for him be­cause at that moment, we de­cided Glenn Thibeault would be the Lib­eral can­di­date.”

When she called Olivier later that day, Wynne said she made it clear to Olivier he would not be the can­di­date.

“The con­ver­sa­tion was about keep­ing him in­volved,” she said. “This was a dif­fi­cult moment for him. He was think­ing about be­ing the Lib­eral can­di­date again. The re­al­ity is, and I didn’t say that to him, he hadn’t been a great can­di­date in the gen­eral elec­tion. We were look­ing for a can­di­date we had con­fi­dence in and would win the rid­ing.”

Wynne said she did not have to call Olivier, but did so out of com­pas­sion.

“I thought it was the de­cent thing to do, to reach out to him and hear from me I was pre­pared to ap­point Glenn Thibeault,” she said. “I would have ap­pre­ci­ated the same treat­ment.”

Wynne said she also brought up that there were pos­si­bil­i­ties for Olivier to pur­sue within the party, such as be­ing on com­mis­sions, but that he would have to fol­low a process.

“I told him there were many ways to be in­volved,” she said. “He would have to make a de­ci­sion as to which process ... It could be a dif­fer­ent process de­pend­ing on what he was in­ter­ested in. Th­ese are not things that could hap­pen im­me­di­ately.”

The trial heard the party op­er­ates four com­mis­sions: Women’s, Young Lib­er­als, In­dige­nous and Se­nior Mem­bers. The com­mis­sions help de­velop party pol­icy.

“I felt it was a good thing for him to be in­volved (in the party) lo­cally,” she said. “He brought ex­pe­ri­ence and a good per­spec­tive to the Lib­eral fam­ily and my hope was that he would stay.”

Wynne said the rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tion was pur­posely kept in the dark to al­low Thibeault time to make a de­ci­sion. She said that when Olivier held a press con­fer­ence on Dec. 15 an­nounc­ing he was with­draw­ing from seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion, the party had to move quickly and an­nounce Thibeault’s can­di­dacy. That hap­pened the next day.

Asked about Olivier’s de­ci­sion to an­nounce on Face­book in late Novem­ber he would be seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion in the by elec­tion, Wynne agreed that the move was “pre­ma­ture” since a nom­i­na­tion process had yet to be de­vel­oped.

Wynne also noted that dur­ing the June 2014 elec­tion cam­paign, Olivier made a state­ment about the Catholic School sys­tem in the prov­ince that was con­trary to of­fi­cial party pol­icy.

“It was very sur­pris­ing and con­cern­ing,” she said.

Af­ter Wynne was fin­ished tes­ti­fy­ing and the trial broke for lunch, Wynne briefly ad­dressed re­porters out­side the Min­istry of North­ern De­vel­op­ment and Mines build­ing, telling them, “I said ev­ery­thing I had to say.”

As she spoke, sev­eral pro­test­ers spoke over her com­ments say­ing things like “liar, liar, pants on fire” and “shame on you.”

As Wynne headed to her car, one pro­tester yelled “an elec­tion is com­ing up, not soon enough.”

Mo­ments ear­lier, Tim­mins-James Bay New Demo­crat MPP Gilles Bis­son, who has been at­tend­ing the trial, told re­porters that in some ar­eas, Wynne had an ex­cel­lent mem­ory, but a bad one in oth­ers. He also said the trial has shown that the lo­cal Lib­er­als were not “one big, happy fam­ily.”

Bis­son said he is glad a trial is be­ing con­ducted.

“The leg­is­la­tion is clear: you make some­one a bribe or of­fi­cer a job or any­thing to dis­suade some­one from seek­ing a can­di­dacy,” he said.

Bis­son also said it’s wrong that a po­lit­i­cal party leader has the power to ap­point some­one to run in a rid­ing. He said the New Democrats, both in On­tario and na­tion­ally, do not al­low for ap­point­ment of can­di­dates, as it is best that lo­cal rid­ing mem­bers select whom they want.

“In our sys­tem, there is a nom­i­na­tion process,” he said. “At times, it’s sticky. But it’s done. This should be all about the vot­ers back home ... At the end of the day, it’s the gen­eral pub­lic who de­cides.”

The Crown–the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice of Canada — ex­pects to call 17 wit­nesses. Those still sched­uled to tes­tify in­clude for­mer Sud­bury Lib­eral MPP Rick Bar­tolucci, cur­rent Sud­bury Lib­eral MPP and En­ergy Min­is­ter Glenn Thibeault, and Matichuk.

The trial con­tin­ues Thurs­day.


In this artist's sketch, On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne (left) is ques­tioned by Crown Prose­cu­tor Vern Brewer (cen­tre) at the trial of two Lib­er­als who are charged with bribery un­der the Elec­tion Act, in Sud­bury on Wed­nes­day. Justice Howard Borenstein (top right), lawyer Brian Greenspan, Gerry Lougheed and Pat Sor­bara look on.

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