TORONTO – The Ontario Provincial Police questioned Premier Kathleen Wynne Wednesday about allegations the Liberal Party offered a former candidate a job or appointment to step aside in a recent byelection.
The premier’s office issued a statement Tuesday evening confirming the meeting with police took place, but it did not say where, how long it lasted, or how many detectives asked Wynne about the lead-up to the Feb. 2 byelection in Sudbury.
“The premier answered openly and her questions were consistent with the public statements she has already made,” said the statement from Wynne’s press secretary, Zita Astravas.
“The premier has been open with the legislature, the media and the public about the allegations related to the Sudbury byelection.”
Her office declined to answer any questions about Wynne’s meeting with the police.
“We will continue to co-operate fully and will have no further comments so as to not interfere with the ongoing investigation,” said Astravas.
The Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Party leaders said Tuesday that it was “appalling” and “unseemly” to see a sitting Ontario premier being questioned by police.
Just before the byelection, Andrew Olivier, the Liberal candidate in Sudbury in last year’s election, said Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, and Sudbury Liberal Gerry Lougheed, offered him a job or appointment to step aside in favour of Wynne’s preferred choice, then-NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.
Wynne has repeatedly said there was no need to offer Olivier anything because she’d already decided he wouldn’t be the Liberal candidate, but she wanted to keep him active and involved in the party.
Olivier released audio recordings of his conversations with Sorbara and Lougheed, who chairs Sudbury’s police services board, but said he did not record his conversation with Wynne.
Both Sorbara and Lougheed have denied the allegations, and Wynne has refused repeated opposition calls to remove Sorbara from the premier’s office until police complete their investigation.
The OPP began investigating allegations the Liberals’ actions violated the Criminal Code, and later began looking into possible violations of the Election Act as well.
Elections Ontario concluded Sorbara and Lougheed’s actions constituted an “apparent contravention” of the Election Act concerning bribery, but the agency has no mandate to conduct prosecutions.
After quitting the NDP and resigning his seat in the House of Commons, Thibeault was appointed by Wynne as the Liberal candidate and recaptured Sudbury for the governing party, which had lost the long-held riding to the NDP in the 2014 general election.
The Liberals also face police investigations into financial irregularities at the Ornge air ambulance service and into the deletion of government documents on the decision to cancel two planned gas plants, which the auditor general said could cost taxpayers over $1 billion.