TORONTO – New Democrats reacted with anger Tuesday after one of their MPs announced he was leaving the party to run for the Ontario Liberals in a yet-to-be called provincial byelection.
“I am proud to announce that I will be running as the Ontario Liberal party candidate in the upcoming byelection in my community of Sudbury,” Glenn Thibeault said in a statement.
Thibeault’s decision, which comes less than a year before the next federal election, is seen as a blow to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and his provincial counterpart, Andrea Horwath, whose newest member of the provincial legislature quit after five months on the job, prompting the need for a byelection.
It also came one day after the Liberal candidate in the June 12 Ontario election, Andrew Olivier, said he was offered a government appointment or job to stop pursuing the nomination for the Sudbury byelection.
“It says a lot about the values of (Premier) Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal party,” said Ontario NDP house leader Gilles Bisson. “They are willing to allegedly bribe a lifelong Liberal to make way for a turncoat MP who is more interested in his own career than the people of Sudbury.”
Mulcair has yet to comment on the defection of one of his MPs to the Ontario Liberals.
Wynne said she was “thrilled” that Thibeault agreed to quit the NDP and run for the Liberals in Sudbury, and took a shot at the New Democrats by promising “stable” Liberal representation for the city.
“He has a strong track record of serving his constituents and championing the needs of his community,” Wynne said in a statement. “I know that the residents of Sudbury deserve and are eager to have stable representative at Queen’s Park as soon as possible.”
Thibeault said the decision to run for the Ontario Liberals was not an easy one.
“The need for this byelection was sudden and unexpected, and I have come to the decision to move to provincial politics after much reflection and discussion with those people close to me,” he said.
In his statement, Thibeault said serving his community remained his priority.
“It is my belief that I can continue to do so from a different vantage point working as part of the Ontario Liberal government.”
Olivier said Monday that Wynne had personally told him the Liberals wanted another candidate in Sudbury, even though he’d lost by less than 1,000 votes to New Democrat Joe Cimino in what had been a long-held Liberal riding.
Then Pat Sorbara, the Ontario Liberal campaign director, contacted him and “reiterated suggestions of a job or appointment,” Olivier said.
Wynne admitted that she reached out to Olivier to let him know the Liberals had another candidate in mind, but insisted there were no specific offers made.
The Progressive Conservatives have asked the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate Olivier’s claims of a job offer, while the NDP asked Elections Ontario to look into the situation.
Cimino surprised everyone by resigning in November after just five months as an MPP, citing family reasons for his decision.
Wynne has until next May to call the byelection in Sudbury, and said Tuesday she would announce the date in the new year.