Sudbury Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed has now been formally charged by the OPP with bribery for attempting to induce prospective Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier to withdraw from the 2014 provincial nomination race for the riding. In a meeting that was taped by Olivier, a quadriplegic who could not take notes, there is little doubt that Lougheed openly offered Olivier a variety of jobs and appointments in return for his withdrawal—a clear violation of the Criminal Code is and punishable by up to seven years in prison. But the Liberals go too far when they claim that Pat Sorbara, Wynne’s Chief of staff who also tried to persuade Olivier to withdraw has been exonerated by virtue of not being charged. In her conversation with Olivier Sorbara said, “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 fulfill that is what I’m getting at, whether it’s a full time or a part time job in a (constituent)
office, whether it is appointments, supports, or commissions, whether it is also going on the (Liberal party executive)…we would just need to better understand what is it that you
most want to do.” Clearly Sorbara was also offering Olivier a job. The only reason she wasn’t charged was because in the time between Lougheed’s meeting with Olivier and Sorbara’s, Premier Kathleen Wynne had phoned Olivier and advised him that she preferred a different candidate. It is argued that Sorbara’s job offers couldn’t be seen as a bribe because the Premier had already made up her mind about thwarting Olivier’s candidacy. Legally there may be a distinction between Lougheed’s actions and Sorbara’s but ethically it is hard to see much difference. Both were holding out the power of the premier to reward in order to achieve a desired outcome. Furthermore, Lougheed opened his remarks with
Olivier saying he was coming to him on behalf of the premier, and that he had just been in conversation with the premier and Sorbara. The premier has denied authorizing Lougheed’s actions, but now that he has apparently been made the scapegoat in the affair, Lougheed has little to lose. Could we be seeing an Ontario version of the Mike Duffy trial? The court date for Lougheed has been set for November 18th.