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Ontario Liberals’ Campaign Chief Steps Aside After Bribery Charges Laid

Oh shit.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Photo via Flickr user Joseph Morris

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's top political adviser was forced to resign today after provincial police charged her and a senior Liberal operative with bribery under the Elections Act.

The police allege Patricia Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed offered jobs and government appointments to clear the way for the premier's preferred candidate in the 2015 Sudbury byelection. Sorbara was the premier's deputy chief of staff and, until today, CEO of the Ontario Liberal Party and chair of the Liberal's 2018 re-election campaign. Lougheed is a long-time party organizer in Sudbury.


The charges rocked the legislature as opposition parties took aim at Wynne for her alleged role in the alleged bribes.

"Did the premier order the current CEO of the Ontario Liberal Party to allegedly bribe Andrew Olivier during the Sudbury byelection, yes or no?" Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown asked.

"I would appreciate an answer to a very straightforward question."

Wynne dodged and said her government was cooperating with the police investigation and she would allow the courts to do their work.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath objected to the speaker's repeated requests for MPPs to stop suggesting the premier ordered her underlings to offer bribes.

"This is a matter of public interest and I have the right to ask the Liberal premier what the heck happened in Sudbury," Horwath said. "That is my job, Mr. Speaker."

The whole sordid affair began back in 2015 when prospective Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier was approached by Lougheed and Sorbara asking him to step aside to allow now-Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault to run for the Liberals in the Sudbury byelection.

In conversations recorded by Olivier, Lougheed is heard suggesting the premier can offer "appointments, jobs, whatever" if he were to withdraw his name from the nomination race.

Call between Gerry Lougheed and Andrew Olivier

In another recording, Sorbara, then the premier's chief of staff, is heard offering Olivier an advisory role on disability advocacy and policy — Olivier is quadriplegic — as an executive of the party, or a job in Thibeault's office, if he wins.


Those jobs would all have come with a stipend or salary paid through the government.

Olivier said the premier herself called him, but he was unable to record what she said.

Eventually, he rejected the job offers and went to the press.

Read more: The Premier of Ontario May Have Tried to Buy Off One of Her Candidates

Wynne has maintained throughout the two-year investigation that "any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is false."

In April, the OPP and prosecutors declined to move forward with criminal charges of unlawful influencing and negotiating appointments against Lougheed. Under the criminal law, those charges can be reinstated within a year of being stayed. The penalties for such offences carry jail time up to seven years.

The charges issued today against Lougheed and Sorbara fall under the less severe penalties of the Elections Act, ranging from fines up to $25,000 and a max jail sentence of two years.

With files from Justin Ling

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