WATCH: Alan Carter has the details on Kathleen Wynne’s new offensive strategy in the Sudbury byelection scandal.
TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne came out swinging at Ontario’s opposition parties today, telling them to stop their “hypocritical” attacks on her deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara.
The Progressive Conservatives and NDP say Wynne must “come clean” about her role in “the apparent contravention” of a bribery section of the Election Act by Sorbara and Liberal Gerry Lougheed in a recent Sudbury byelection.
The opposition parties want Wynne to ask Sorbara to leave the premier’s office until a police investigation of the Feb. 5 byelection is completed.
But Wynne says she won’t force someone to resign in the face of allegations she does not believe to be true.
Wynne also says Conservatives and New Democrats have approached the Liberals offering to resign in exchange for government appointments, and were turned down by the Liberals, but she wouldn’t name names.
During a hastily called news conference, Wynne repeatedly compared patronage appointments with the allegations of bribery, and called it “semantics” when it was suggested they are not the same things.
Elections Ontario said Sorbara and Lougheed apparently violated the Election Act after it found evidence they offered a job or appointment to former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier to step aside in the byelection.
Wynne insists she’d already decided last November that Olivier would not be the Liberal candidate, so there was no need for Sorbara or Lougheed to have offered him anything to step aside.
“Let me be very clear on this point: Andrew Olivier was absolutely aware during those conversations that he would not be the candidate,” she said. “He was not being asked to step aside because it had been clearly communicated to him that Glenn Thibeault was being appointed as the candidate.”
WATCH: Chief Electoral Officer believes Liberals broke Elections Act in Sudbury
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath doubted Wynne’s timeline, and said Sorbara and Lougheed can be heard on audio recordings with Olivier saying no decision had been made yet.
“How could she have decided on an appointment if in all of those tapes it’s very clear that that decision was still pending,” asked Horwath. “
The Progressive Conservatives said if police decide to lay charges against Sorbara and Lougheed, then Wynne must also step aside as premier until the charges are resolved.
“Did she, the premier, direct them to make what sounds like a bribe,” asked interim PC leader Jim Wilson. “If not, she should just say so and remove the bad apples.”
Greg Essensa, the chief electoral officer of Ontario, concluded that Sorbara and Lougheed’s actions “constitute an apparent contravention” of a section of the Election Act concerning “bribery in connection with inducing a person to become, refrain from becoming, or withdrawing from being a candidate.”
Ontario Provincial Police are also investigating whether the alleged actions violated the Criminal Code.