Lawyers call for ac­quit­tals in Lib­eral trial

Waterloo Region Record - - WORLD - Al­li­son Jones

SUDBURY — Lawyers seek­ing an ac­quit­tal for two On­tario Lib­er­als fac­ing bribery charges un­der the Elec­tion Act ar­gue their clients did noth­ing il­le­gal be­cause the law doesn’t ap­ply to the in­ter­nal party nom­i­na­tion process.

The lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the pair filed writ­ten ar­gu­ments Fri­day in a di­rected ver­dict ap­pli­ca­tion that calls on the judge to toss the case be­fore the de­fence has even called any wit­nesses.

The two Lib­er­als on trial are ac­cused of of­fer­ing would-be can­di­date An­drew Olivier a job or ap­point­ment to step aside for Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne’s pre­ferred can­di­date in a 2015 by­elec­tion in Sudbury — Glenn Thibeault, who was the NDP MP.

Pat Sor­bara, who was Wynne’s deputy chief of staff and Lib­eral cam­paign direc­tor, and lo­cal Lib­eral fundraiser Gerry Lougheed have pleaded not guilty.

Their lawyers will ar­gue that what is at is­sue in this case is the in­ter­nal Lib­eral party process, which is not gov­erned by the Elec­tion Act.

“The value of neu­tral­ity, which lies at the core of fair and trans­par­ent pub­lic elec­tions, does not play the same role in the nom­i­na­tion process of po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” Michael Lacy and Brian Greenspan write. “Po­lit­i­cal par­ties select can­di­dates for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.”

The def­i­ni­tion of can­di­date in the Elec­tion Act sug­gests some­one can’t be a can­di­date for the pur­poses of that law un­til an elec­tion writ has been is­sued. Sor­bara and Lougheed spoke to Olivier roughly a month be­fore the by­elec­tion was called.

Lougheed, in a recorded con­ver­sa­tion, told Olivier he was there on be­half of the pre­mier to ask him to con­sider step­ping aside for Thibeault and “in the course of that de­lib­er­a­tion” he should con­sider “op­tions in terms of ap­point­ments, jobs, what­ever.”

Sor­bara told Olivier they should have a broad dis­cus­sion about what he would be in­ter­ested in, be it a con­stituency of­fice job, ap­point­ments to boards or com­mis­sions or a po­si­tion on the party ex­ec­u­tive.

But a nom­i­na­tion race is not an “elec­tion” un­der the Elec­tion Act, nor does declar­ing in­ter­est in can­di­dacy make some­one a can­di­date, the lawyers ar­gue, so even if in­duce­ments are made not to run in a nom­i­na­tion race, that’s not cov­ered by the act.

“There is no pro­hi­bi­tion on of­fer­ing in­duce­ments not to par­tic­i­pate in an in­ter­nal party nom­i­na­tion process,” they ar­gue.

Sor­bara also faces a sec­ond charge, al­leg­ing that she bribed Thibeault to be­come the can­di­date by ar­rang­ing for paid jobs on the by­elec­tion cam­paign for two of his con­stituency staff.

That charge ap­pears to rely solely on Thibeault ask­ing Sor­bara if paid cam­paign jobs were a pos­si­bil­ity, while he was con­sid­er­ing whether to run for the Lib­er­als, and Sor­bara re­ply­ing that it was “doable,” her lawyer ar­gues.

A fac­tual re­sponse to a po­ten­tial can­di­date is not an in­duce­ment, and Sor­bara made no prom­ise to pro­vide paid po­si­tions for Thibeault’s staff af­ter he de­cided to be­come the can­di­date, Greenspan writes. “To put it bluntly, the idea that Ms. Sor­bara in­duced Mr. Thibeault to leave his role as a fed­eral MP by promis­ing mod­est one-time stipends for two staffers, to­talling less than $5,000, is fan­ci­ful,” he writes.

The Crown has not yet filed its writ­ten ar­gu­ments. Both sides are set to make their case to a judge in Sudbury Oct. 10.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.