Liberal operatives under fire for Sudbury...
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Feb 20, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Liberal operatives under fire for Sudbury byelection as Elections Ontario finds ‘apparent contravention’

Premier’s deputy chief of staff on firing line as Elections Ontario finds “apparent contravention” of anti-bribery law in Sudbury byelection job offer scandal.

OurWindsor.Ca

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff is on the firing line after being found in “apparent contravention” of bribery laws over job offers in the Sudbury byelection.

The bombshell finding Thursday from Elections Ontario chief Greg Essensa fuelled opposition calls for Pat Sorbara’s resignation as the corruption case is handed over to the OPP, already conducting a separate criminal probe.

Wynne rallied behind Sorbara — also a key architect of last June’s Liberal election victory — but left the option of throwing her under the bus as the government reviews Essensa’s damning 29-page report.

“We will let the process unfold,” the embattled premier said during a raucous question period in the legislature dominated by the scandal.

“This doesn’t change the fact that any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is false.”

Both Sorbara and Sudbury Liberal operative Gerry Lougheed were subjects of Essensa’s Election Act probe into the alleged offering of a job to former Grit candidate Andrew Olivier.

Neither Sorbara nor Lougheed, chair of the Sudbury’s police services board, could be reached for comment Thursday, but both have insisted they did nothing wrong.

On Tuesday, Sorbara told the Star: “Based on what the premier said in the house, I’m staying.” Lougheed, a businessman, has said he will keep his police board appointment renewed by the Liberals a year ago.

Essensa was asked by the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP to investigate the Feb. 5 byelection won by defecting New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault after Olivier said he was offered jobs in exchange for abandoning his Liberal nomination bid.

“This is an unprecedented situation . . . no chief electoral officer of Ontario has ever conducted a regulatory investigation into allegations of bribery,” he said in a statement that jolted Queen’s Park.

“This provision concerns bribery in connection with inducing a person to become, refrain from becoming, or withdrawing from being a candidate.”

Conservative House leader Steve Clark said Wynne has no choice but to “cut these two bad apples loose.”

“If you stand with these two, you’re going to fall with these two.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was aghast that Wynne would not demand her deputy chief’s head on a platter and Lougheed’s departure from the police board — at least until the investigations are completed — instead of “covering their rear ends.”

“This is a shameful demonstration by a government that will simply not take responsibility for its actions,” she said, noting the OPP is also investigating the deleted emails in the government’s $1.1-billion gas plants scandal and questionable business practices at the ORNGE air ambulance service.

Wynne has repeatedly maintained “there were no specific offers” of a job to Olivier in conversations he taped with Sorbara and Lougheed.

They had approached Olivier — who ran for the Liberals last June and finished second to the NDP — to explore whether he would make way for Thibeault to become the Liberal candidate.

Lougheed told him the Grits “would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever” while Sorbara raised the possibility of “a full-time or part-time job in a constit (constituency) office” or an appointment or post on the party executive.

Olivier, a quadriplegic, recorded both conversations in lieu of taking notes — and the OPP and Elections Ontario pored over the tapes and transcripts.

“Having reviewed the evidence and findings from this regulatory investigation, it is my opinion that the actions of Gerry Lougheed Jr. and Patricia Sorbara constitute an ‘apparent contravention,’ ” Essensa wrote.

Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said her officials have transferred the case to the federal prosecutors to avoid any conflict of interest.

The OPP’s anti-rackets squad has been investigating the alleged job offers to Olivier under a separate Criminal Code provision, and its detectives will be taking on the Election Act probe as well, said Det.-Supt. Dave Truax.

“I’m not able to speculate as to when the criminal investigation will be completed,” he said.

Olivier said he feels vindicated yet again because the escalation of the Elections Ontario probe to the OPP shows his accusations have been taken seriously.

“It isn’t about me winning because I caught the other team cheating, it’s about the system being more open and accountable.”

The premier has repeatedly characterized conversations with Olivier — who ran as an independent, finishing third behind Thibeault — as being aimed at keeping him involved in the party.

“They were suggestions about things he might apply for,” Wynne told the legislature as recently as Wednesday.

Thibeault, who along with Wynne was cleared of any wrongdoing by Elections Ontario, said he was “pleased to see there was nothing there in relation to me or to the premier.”

Asked how it’s playing back home, the newly minted Sudbury MPP smiled and said: “Two weeks ago I had over 10,000 people vote for me . . . people are understanding this is a process and that’s where we’re going on it.”

Essensa hired lawyer Brian Gover of Stockwoods LLP to “advise and assist” with the Elections Ontario investigation and the report to the attorney general.

Ironically, Gover is representing ex-premier Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff David Livingston in the OPP probe of the gas plants investigation.

Toronto Star

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(1) Comment

By Rationale | FEBRUARY 20, 2015 01:11 PM
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right" - Thomas Paine - Looks like the Lie-berals can do no wrong doesn't it? Where are the arrests? "Ironically", Essensa goes and hires a lawyer who is defending a Liberal in the gas plant investigation???? Where is the clean perspective, the unbiased scrutiny? Thanks again, unions, Liberal voters...for fueling the fire that will burn us all.
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