Premier Kathleen Wynne and her deputy chief of staff will meet this week with Elections Ontario officials investigating what opposition parties have dubbed the Sudbury byelection bribery scandal.
Simon Tunstall, executive director of the Ontario Liberal Party, said Monday that Wynne and Pat Sorbara will sit down with elections brass to clear the air.
“It is well known that Elections Ontario has conducted interviews in relation to its examination of false allegations related to the Sudbury byelection, including with both NDP MPP Gilles Bisson and PC MPP Steve Clark,” Tunstall said in a statement.
“We’ve been clear with Elections Ontario that they have our full co-operation. To that end, in the coming week, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Patricia Sorbara will also meet Elections Ontario officials, at the request of Elections Ontario,” he said.
“We’re glad Elections Ontario is taking this seriously so there will be no doubt that the allegations are false.”
At issue is the claim that Independent candidate Andrew Olivier, who had run for the Liberal in the June 12 election, was asked to step aside for the Feb. 5 byelection in exchange for a job.
The Grits pushed aside Olivier, who is vying to be Ontario’s first quadriplegic MPP, to install NDP MP Glenn Thibeault as their candidate.
“We welcome the opportunity to tell Elections Ontario directly what we’ve said all along — that after the premier told Andrew Olivier that he would not be the candidate, Patricia Sorbara reiterated the premier’s decision and discussed ways Olivier could remain involved in the party or in matters related to his own personal and stated interests, such as accessibility issues,” said Tunstall.
“Any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is false. Andrew Olivier had already been informed that he would not be the candidate,” he said.
“Not only were no specific offers made, but such an offer would have no utility because the premier exercised her prerogative as Ontario Liberal Party leader to name a candidate, as per the Ontario Liberal Party constitution.”
Two weeks ago, Olivier released tapes of conversations with Sorbara and with Sudbury Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed that he maintains proved his claim the Grits offered to reward him for stepping aside.
At the same time as Elections Ontario’s probe, Ontario Provincial Police investigators are examining the recordings, transcripts and other evidence as they decide whether to open a full criminal investigation.
No charges have been laid.
Recent polls show the Liberals’ Thibeault in a tight race with New Democrats’ Suzanne Shawbonquit while Olivier has surged into third place ahead of the Tories’ Paula Peroni.
In a statement Monday, Thibeault admitted the controversy is coming up on the doorsteps.
“While it hasn’t been the biggest concern, some people do ask about the allegations made by Andrew Olivier and NDP,” said the former NDP MP.
“That’s why I’m glad that Elections Ontario is taking the issue seriously and is fully and independently assessing their merits,” he said, stressing “by far, the issues people raise with me the most are the need for high-quality health care, better roads, and better paying jobs.”