Premier Kathleen Wynne is on thin ice by saying she doesn’t expect criminal charges in the Sudbury byelection bribery scandal because her remarks could be interpreted as trying to influence police, opposition parties say.
“She’s got to stop trying to interfere,” Progressive Conservative House Leader Steve Clark said Friday in remarks echoed by his NDP counterpart.
“Maybe she is trying to hope that they hear her and at the end of the day maybe nothing happens,” Gilles Bisson told reporters.
Wynne’s office released a statement saying the rival parties are off-base in their accusations of interference and should “let the authorities do their job.”
“The opposition knows the investigation is entirely independent,” the statement added.
The Ontario Provincial Police anti-rackets squad is investigating allegations that Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed of Sudbury and Wynne deputy chief of staff Pat Sorbara broke the Elections Act and Criminal Code by dangling job prospects before former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier.
Police have been trying to arrange an interview with Wynne as they proceed with the probe that widened last week after Elections Ontario found Sorbara and Lougheed were in “apparent contradiction” of the Election Act.
Wynne has said several times in the legislature and elsewhere that she doesn’t expect charges to be laid against Sorbara or Lougheed — although when asked about other matters facing her government, such as options on various policies under consideration, frequently says she doesn’t want to “pre-judge” what might happen.
Clark said it’s odd how the premier is selective in what she’s willing to predict.
“It’s yet another example where the premier says one thing and does another.”
Wynne has refused to ask Sorbara to step aside until the police investigation is complete and maintains Lougheed’s status as a member and chairman of the Sudbury police board is out of her government’s hands, despite the fact that he is a patronage appointee to the board.
Bisson said that is misleading because order-in-council appointments made by the premier’s cabinet can be rescinded at any time — as has been the case in a number of appointments revoked by Wynne herself, who signed them personally.
“It’s pretty clear the premier and the government have the power to do this,” Bisson said, maintaining Wynne signed the order revoking Paul Godfrey’s appointment as chairman of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation when the government no longer wanted him in charge.
The Sudbury police board said Thursday it will write to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to seek guidance on the Lougheed matter, given that he is the chairman of the board and under police investigation.
Wynne says there were no job offers to Olivier, merely discussions about his potential future in the party.
She appointed defecting New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault as the Liberal candidate in the Feb. 5 byelection, in which Olivier placed third as an independent.
Sorbara and Lougheed have said they have done nothing wrong. Wynne told reporters a week ago that Sorbara would be asked to step aside only if charges are laid.