Whatever the outcome of the current OPP investigation into the events leading up to the nomination and election of Liberal MPP Glen Thibeault in Sudbury, the tapes released by unsuccessful candidate Andre Olivier reveal the not-so-pleasant side of party politics. Olivier, who was left quadriplegic from a hockey accident at age 15, lost the 2014 general election by less than 1000 votes, and was ready to throw his hat into the ring when rookie New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino suddenly resigned on Nov. 20 citing family and health reasons. The second shoe in the drama fell in December when NDP MP Glen Thibeault resigned from the Federal NDP caucus and then announced he was switching to provincial politics as a Liberal and would contest the vacancy created by Cimino.
The only task that remained was to persuade Olivier to bow out gracefully, and possibly even display party solidarity by nominating Thibeault. The first person to broach the subject to Olivier was Gerry Lougheed a Sudbury funeral director and party fundraiser. Olivier taped his conversation with Lougheed and a subsequent conversation with the Premier’s Deputy Chief of Staff Pat Sorbabra.
The elections Act states:
“No person shall, directly or indirectly, (e) give, procure or promise or agree to procure an office or employment to induce a person to become a candidate, refrain from becoming a candidate or withdraw his or her candidacy”.
Lougheed, in his December 11 2014 meeting with Olivier, got right to the point as the transcripts reveal.
Lougheed: “So I come to you, on behalf of the premier, …, to ask you if you would consider stepping down, even more than that Andrew, nominating (Thibeault). In the course of that deliberation, the Premier wants to talk to you. They would like to present to you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about it”.
It was later argued by the Premier that Lougheed had no authority to make any offers. But the Chief electoral officer in his report wrote: “The person making the potential offer, promise or attempted procurement does not need to be shown to be capable of actually following through and delivering on the articulated office or appointment to contravene the section. I do not first need to be satisfied that someone actually has or had the ability to offer an office or appointment before considering whether there is evidence that they did or did not make a promise or offer to procure an office or appointment in contravention of the Election Act”.
The Premier has stated that that Olivier knew in all of his conversations that the decision had already been made to appoint Thibeault, and that therefore the jobs offered could not be considered an inducement to step aside. But there is nothing in the Lougheed transcript to suggest that the decision had been taken. It wasn’t until later that day in a conversation with the Premier that Olivier was told the nomination was a done deal. As an aside, Lougheed at one point implied to Olivier that he should be grateful that the premier was willing to talk to him directly about his rejection—that such news was almost always delivered through intermediaries. The Sorbara conversation also contained implied job offers but took place after Olivier admits Wynne had told him he was out as a candidate.
Such wheeling and dealing over nominations is common to all parties, but rarely have the negotiations been as explicit as in the Sudbury affair. The matter is now in the hands of the OPP. You can hear the
audio transcripts of the
two interviews at www.bayobserver.ca
|Timeline of Events in the Thibeault-Olivier Affair|
|November 20, 2014||Joseph Cimino resigned as MPP for Sudbury and created a vacancy in the riding
Legislative Assembly that would be filled in a by-election.
|November 21, 2014||Andrew Olivier declared his intention (via Twitter) to seek the Ontario Liberal nomination. Party (OLP) nomination in the by-election.|
|December 11, 2014||Gerry Lougheed Jr. contacted Andrew Olivier. Andrew Olivier recorded his meeting with Gerry Lougheed Jr.|
|December 11, 2014||Premier Wynne contacted Andrew Olivier and explained her vision for Sudbury, which involved Glenn Thibeault as the OLP candidate (Andrew Olivier stated under oath he did not record the conversation).|
|December 12, 2014||Patricia Sorbara contacted Andrew Olivier and spoke with him for approximately 24 minutes
He recorded this conversation with Patricia Sorbara (who later verified that it is her voice in the recording).
|January 15, 2015||Andrew Olivier publicly released the recordings of his conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara
Gerry Lougheed Jr. and Patricia Sorbara.
|January 16, 2015||The OPP re-opened its investigation.|