Premier’s no hero

Tes­ti­fy­ing was all about help­ing her­self

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

Lib­eral pun­dits, in­clud­ing Toronto Star Lib­eral-in­res­i­dent colum­nist Reg Cohn, were heap­ing praise on Premier Kath­leen Wynne for her “slick” coura­geous­ness and poise in be­ing the “first sit­ting premier to ap­pear on the wit­ness stand, (fac­ing) her own trial by fire.”

To her fawn­ing cir­cle of love­struck ad­mir­ers, Wynne was akin to a mod­ern-day Joan of Arc, rein­car­nated.

The very cloth he­roes are cut from.

She could have hid­den be­hind “par­lia­men­tary im­mu­nity,” but no, there she was boldly tes­ti­fy­ing at the bribery trial un­der the Elec­tions Act of two of her for­mer po­lit­i­cal un­der­lings.

In­ex­pli­ca­bly, she in­sisted in tes­ti­fy­ing for the whole pe­riod — more than four hours — stand­ing, to boot. Did she have a sore back, or was it the­atrics to some­how im­press the judge and make her­self larger than life?

Not to rain on any­one’s pa­rade, but let’s re­mem­ber she was a wit­ness called by the prose­cu­tion. Trial “Rule 101” is that you can’t cros­sex­am­ine your own wit­ness. You can only ask non-lead­ing, open ended ques­tions.

So Wynne was fac­ing a friendly ex­am­i­na­tionin-chief with soft­ball ques­tions. In other words, she was hold­ing court. Amer­i­can ju­rist John H. Wig­more once fa­mously said that “cros­sex­am­i­na­tion is the great­est le­gal en­gine ever in­vented for the dis­cov­ery of the truth.”

Let’s just say there was no roar­ing of that en­gine in last week’s court mono­logue by Wynne. Not even a whim­per.

Pat Sor­bara, for­merly Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, and Sud­bury busi­ness­man Gerry Lougheed, Jr., the Lib­eral fundraiser, are charged with bribery un­der On­tario’s Elec­tion Act with re­gards to would-be can­di­date Andrew Olivier for of­fer­ing him a job should he with­draw from the 2015 Sud­bury elec­tion. Sor­bara is also charged with an­other count of bribery for of­fer­ing Glenn Thibeault in­cen­tives to run for the Lib­er­als.

The whole trial is about which came first — the chicken or the egg. Did Sor­bara and Lougheed sim­ply, out of the good­ness of their heart, want to en­sure a smooth land­ing to a good Lib­eral once he was tossed aside by the party? In which case, they’d not be guilty of wrong­do­ing. Or did they try to en­tice him to give up run­ning. In which case, they’d be in trou­ble with the law. The same kind of logic ap­plies to Sor­bara’s ad­di­tional charge.

The prob­lem for Sor­bara and Lougheed are the damn­ing record­ings from Olivier of con­ver­sa­tions he had with them. “The premier wants to talk to you. We would like to present to you op­tions in terms of ap­point­ments, jobs, what­ever,” Lougheed says to Olivier on the tape, af­ter ask­ing him to drop out in favour of Mr. Thibeault. In law, that is called real ev­i­dence. And it’s a real moun­tain for the ac­cused to climb.

“I hate to sound kind of Machi­avel­lian about it, but ... at the end of the day, if you take the high road on this — what is your re­ward?” Lougheed says in the record­ing. “What do they say? ‘Andrew Olivier took a bul­let for us, so what do we give to Andrew Olivier?’ And by the way, I’ve al­ready raised that ques­tion.”

Why, then, would Wynne will­ingly tes­tify for the prose­cu­tion of her two pals? First, to dis­tance her­self from the whole bribery al­le­ga­tions, which she ar­guably did.

Se­cond, to bol­ster her for­mer hench­men’s de­fence that this was all about keep­ing the On­tario Lib­eral fam­ily to­gether.

Wynne’s tes­ti­mony, far from be­ing a self­less or risky act, was all about help­ing her­self and her for­mer helpers in a friendly at­mos­phere. That doesn’t make her a hero in my books.


LOUGHEED Record­ings

SOR­BARA On trial

OLIVIER Re­placed

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