Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday September 12, 2017
Liberals enduring two scandal trials
Two Ontario Liberals went to trial last Thursday on Election Act bribery charges stemming from a 2015 byelection in Sudbury, but the stakes are also high for Premier Kathleen Wynne herself.
The Sudbury trial happens nearly simultaneously with another Liberal trial – related to the cancellation of two gas plants – which makes for terrible optics for the party. But while that second trial involves staffers for former premier Dalton McGuinty, the Sudbury scandal is one forged entirely under Wynne’s tenure.
The premier herself is set to testify on Sept. 13.
“Politically, it’s not good,” said Nadia Verrelli, an assistant political science professor at Sudbury’s Laurentian University.
Regardless of the outcome, it may focus the provincial election campaign – with a vote nine months away – on questions about the Liberals’ integrity rather than their policies, she said.
Pat Sorbara, at the time the Ontario Liberal Party CEO, faces two charges and Gerry Lougheed, a Sudbury Liberal fundraiser, faces one charge. They both deny wrongdoing.
In late 2014, the Sudbury riding became vacant when the New Democrat who won it five months earlier stepped down for health reasons. The Liberals had their eye on winning back a riding that until 2014 they held for about two decades.
Andrew Olivier, who was the Liberals’ candidate in the riding in the general election, wanted to run again, but Wynne had other ideas. She ended up successfully luring the riding’s NDP MP – Glenn Thibeault – to run for the provincial Liberals.
One of Sorbara’s charges relates to an allegation she promised to get Thibeault “an office or employment” to induce him to become a candidate, which both deny.
Sorbara and Lougheed are alleged to have offered Olivier a job or appointment in exchange for stepping aside for Thibeault, who was ultimately given the post of energy minister last year.
Wynne has said that she had already decided Olivier would not be the byelection candidate by the time Sorbara and Lougheed spoke to him, therefore anything offered was not in exchange for stepping aside. Rather, Wynne says, she was trying to keep him in the party fold. (Source: Global News)