A spurned Liberal candidate in the hotly contested Sudbury byelection has released tapes and transcripts of conversations he says took place with party operatives suggesting jobs or appointments as a reward for dropping out.
The dramatic move Thursday by Andrew Olivier — now running as an independent in the Feb. 5 vote — follows an OPP decision earlier this week there were no grounds for criminal charges following allegations he was illegally enticed to step aside as a potential Liberal candidate.
“We have conducted an investigation and we concluded no criminal offence took place,” Sgt. Peter Leon said Monday.
Olivier said the conversations were with Sudbury Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed — who helped lure New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault into quitting the NDP to run for Premier Kathleen Wynne — and Ontario Liberal Party campaign head Pat Sorbara.
Both told Olivier that Wynne and the party did not want him to be the candidate because Thibeault had a better shot at winning the riding, but said they hoped he would be a team player and stay active with the Liberals.
Neither Lougheed nor Sorbara could immediately be reached for comment but Wynne’s office issued a seven-paragraph statement saying the tapes show ways Olivier could “remain involved in the party or in matters related to his own personal and stated interests.”
“Any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is false,” said the statement issued by Wynne press secretary Lyndsay Miller.
“Olivier had already been informed that he would not be the candidate. Pat Sorbara has been vindicated of the false allegations,” the statement added.
The first tape released was with Lougheed.
“The premier wants to talk to you,” Lougheed is quoted as saying in a lengthy chat about Thibeault coming on board before the bombshell announcement was made in December.
“They would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about.”
The statement from Wynne’s office said “Lougheed is not government or Liberal Party staff, he speaks for himself.”
After speaking with Wynne — a call for which Olivier did not release a tape or transcript — Olivier said he had a talk on the phone with Sorbara.
“There’s lots of options that we can sit down and talk about,” she is quoted as saying. “We should have the broader discussion about what is it that you’d be most interested in doing, and then decide what shape that could take, that would fulfil that is what I’m getting at.”
“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 . . . ”
The references were to positions in an MPP’s constituency office and at the Liberal party executive. To join the executive, candidates must be elected by party members.
Olivier, who records calls because he is a quadriplegic and cannot easily take notes, said he decided to make the tapes and transcripts public “in an attempt to set the record straight.”
“Speculation about these conversations has become a point of distraction and a source of confusion,” he added in a statement. “Voters, pundits and others can listen for themselves . . . I will not be commenting further.”
Elections Ontario has also been asked to investigate but has not commented on its progress.
Olivier said earlier this week he had refused to release tapes or transcripts to the Ontario Provincial Police without a warrant or subpoena.
A new Forum Research poll, conducted Tuesday, shows the byelection to be a tight race between NDP candidate Suzanne Shawbonquit at 42 per cent support and the Liberals’ Thibeault at 40 per cent.
Olivier, who came within 1,000 votes of taking the riding in last June’s provincial election, has one per cent support in the poll, trailing behind the Progressive Conservative candidate Paula Peroni at 13 per cent and Green Party candidate David Robinson at 3 per cent.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Wynne called the byelection last week following the surprise resignation of New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino for unspecified family reasons in late November. Prior to his victory, the riding had been held by veteran Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci.