‘A lot chaos that day’
Thibeault staffer tells bribery trial about the day when NDP MP announced he was running for provincial Liberals
The day NDP MP Glenn Thibeault announced he was resigning to run as the Liberal candidate in the 2015 provincial byelection in Sudbury is one Darrell Marsh will never forget.
“People came in yelling,” the former part-time constituency office employee testified Thursday about what happened Dec. 16, 2014. “I remember people telling me off and taking it out on me.
“I remember seeing people crying, people who had worked hard for the NDP. There was a lot of chaos that happened that day and the next day. We talked to lots of people. They were upset. We had to shut the office down a little bit early because we couldn’t take it. It was pretty tense.”
Marsh was testifying at the bribery trial of Sudbury businessman and Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed Jr. and Patricia Sorbara, former deputy chief of staff in Wynne’s office. They have pleaded not guilty. Lougheed is facing one count and Sorbara two. They’re accused of offering wouldbe candidate Andrew Olivier a job or appointment to get him to step aside for Glenn Thibeault, Wynne’s preferred candidate.
Marsh indicated he had worked in the office since November 2012 and upon hearing of Thibeault’s announcement, began thinking about his future. Out of loyalty to Thibeault, he decided to quit and work as a volunteer on his election campaign.
“During (New Democrat Joe) Cimino’s campaign (in the June 20, 2014, provincial election), when I was fired, Glenn stood up for me and really showed me a lot of respect,” he said. “You don’t know me, sir (to prosecutor David McKercher). I’m not really someone who will interrupt a meeting and stand up, but I spoke up and spoke my mind.
“It was the right thing to do at the time. Glenn was a good person and a good employer. I decided not to stay with the NDP. I didn’t have a good relationship with them.”
Marsh said he was paid a $2,000 honourarium for his “professional consulting services” with the fiveweek campaign after Thibeault made some inquiries, and then landed a full-time constituency office job after Thibeault won the election. In November 2016, Marsh left for a new job.
Marsh said he knew late in 2014 that Thibeault was in the midst of making a major decision.
“I know that he said he did it for his family,” recalled Marsh. “I did say to Glenn ‘whatever you do, I support you.’ I know he had a decision to make.”
Marsh said working in the Thibeault campaign was an unusual situation.
“I was well aware the switch factor was a major factor,” he said. “People were upset. There was a lot of stuff going on.”
Full-time constituency office worker Brian Band, meanwhile, testified had a very similar experience to Marsh. Having once worked with Thibeault in radio (in fact, he was Thibeault’s boss), he joined the Thibeault office in 2009.
When asked if, in late 2014, he knew Thibeault planned to leave the NDP, Band said he had a strong inkling something was coming down.
“I know he had an issue with Mr. (Thomas) Mulcair, the NDP leader, in his role as caucus chair,” said Band. “I don’t think that he was happy at all. We had team meetings and things were discussed and stuff.”
As for when he learned Thibeault was considering leaving the NDP to run for the Liberals in the Sudbury byelection, Band said he did not know, only that his employer was mulling it over.
“Just that it was a tough decision for him to make, for him and his family,” said Band. “I remember him speaking about the decision. He had to respect all the factors.”
Band said he did not know what his future would be if Thibeault left.
“I made a tough decision to leave the federal office,” he said. “He was my friend, so, I decided to go and work in the campaign. That was as Christmastime ... Glenn was honest with me. He made a tough decision. He didn’t try to pressure me one way or another.”
Band said that in the days after Thibeault’s announcement, there was confusion.
“The office was in disarray,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going. The Speaker of the House (of Commons) was running the office.”
As was the case with Marsh, Band said Thibeault was able to get him some money for his work in the campaign, the cheque coming to $2,800. After the election, Band said Thibeault offered him a job as in his constituency office and he accepted.
Band left the constituency office last June and is now semi-retired.