Sud­bury by­elec­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion at a stand­still

OPP con­tin­ues to dig for ev­i­dence eight months into bribery probe of Lib­er­als

Toronto Star - - CANADA - ROBERT BEN­ZIE, ROB FER­GU­SON AND RICHARD J. BREN­NAN QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU

The eight-month On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of Lib­eral bribery dur­ing the Sud­bury by­elec­tion is stalled.

De­tec­tives are try­ing to prove to pros­e­cu­tors they have enough ev­i­dence to pro­ceed with crim­i­nal charges against Pat Sor­bara, Premier Kath­leen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, and Sud­bury Lib­eral or­ga­nizer Gerry Lougheed.

“Be­cause of a pile of stuff that is go­ing on there I am ob­vi­ously frus­trated with the progress,” OPP Com­mis­sioner Vince Hawkes told the Star. While Hawkes de­clined to as­sign blame for the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive case be­ing in limbo, he in­sisted it’s not the fault of his in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

“I am def­i­nitely sat­is­fied that the men and women of the OPP in­volved in this whole process have done an ex­cep­tional job in their part of this whole in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

Sources say the po­lice are hav­ing trou­ble get­ting the case to court. Sor­bara and Lougheed have main­tained they did noth­ing wrong in the leadup to the Feb. 5 Sud­bury by­elec­tion won by the Lib­er­als.

Mor­ris Pistyner, chief fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor for the Public Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice of Canada’s On­tario re­gional of­fice, which is han­dling the case, said, “You’re re­ally get­ting into an area that I don’t think I can com­ment on.

“What you can draw from all this is they are — cer­tainly even from an ob­jec­tive point of view — they’re be­ing very, very care­ful with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Pistyner.

“When a po­lice agency or an in­ves­tiga­tive agency wants to bring charg- es against a per­son or a com­pany they will go to a jus­tice of the peace and they will swear out an in­for­ma­tion be­fore a jus­tice of the peace to say they have rea­son­able, prob­a­ble grounds that an of­fence has been com­mit­ted,” said Pistyner.

“If the jus­tice of the peace is sat­is­fied that they have made out what the (Crim­i­nal) Code re­quires . . . then the jus­tice of the peace will sign that doc­u­ment and will is­sue process. Process would be ei­ther a sum­mons or war­rant for ar­rest.”

Asked why things have ground to a halt, Det.-Supt. Dave Truax, di­rec­tor of the OPP’s crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said: “I am not able to spec­u­late as to when it will reach com­ple­tion.”

Lougheed, a Lib­eral or­ga­nizer and fundraiser whose fam­ily owns a Sud­bury fu­neral home, said it’s been some time since he last heard from the OPP. “I’m just wait­ing to hear from the peo­ple that will make the de­ci­sion. I just as­sume the process is the process,” said the Lib­eral ap­pointee to the city’s po­lice ser­vices board. Sor­bara de­clined to com­ment Wed­nes­day.

The con­tro­versy erupted af­ter NDP MPP Joe Cimino re­signed last Nov. 20, five months af­ter win­ning Sud­bury in the June pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

Run­ner-up An­drew Olivier hoped to again be the Lib­eral can­di­date and be­come the first quad­ri­plegic MPP in On­tario history. That hope was dashed af­ter Wynne lured lo­cal New Demo­crat MP Glenn Thibeault from fed­eral pol­i­tics to run provin­cially as a Lib­eral.

The premier, Lougheed and Sor­bara each ap­pealed to Olivier to move aside and rally be­hind Thibeault.

“The premier wants to talk. They would like to present you op­tions in terms of ap­point­ments, jobs, what­ever, that you and her and Pat Sor­bara could talk about,” Lougheed told him in per­son on Dec. 11.

Olivier records con­ver­sa­tions for note-tak­ing pur­poses, although a call from Wynne wasn’t taped be­cause he was in an el­e­va­tor. He re­leased the record­ings in Jan­uary.

On Dec. 12, Sor­bara said, “We should have the broader dis­cus­sion about what is it that you’d be most in­ter­ested in do­ing . . . whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a con­stit of­fice, whether it is ap­point­ments, sup­ports or com­mis­sions, whether it is also go­ing on the exec, there are lots . . .” Those were ref­er­ences were to po­si­tions in an MPP’s con­stituency of­fice and on the Lib­eral party ex­ec­u­tive.

Weeks later, Olivier went public, say­ing: “I will not be bul­lied, I will not be bought.”

But Wynne, who’s not a sub­ject of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said she was merely pay­ing “An­drew the re­spect of giv­ing him an op­por­tu­nity to know there was another can­di­date.”

Even be­fore Olivier went public, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives and New Democrats had called the OPP and Elec­tions On­tario to see if the con­ver­sa­tions broke any laws.

Greg Essensa, the province’s chief elec­toral of­fi­cer, found the Lib­er­als in “ap­par­ent con­tra­ven­tion” of bribery laws. At the same time, the OPP’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was pro­ceed­ing.

Thibeault won the by­elec­tion and is seen as a shoo-in for cab­i­net the next time Wynne shuf­fles her min­is­ters.

THOMAS DUN­CAN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Lib­eral Glenn Thibeault won the Feb. 5 Sud­bury by­elec­tion.

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