Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed charged in Sudbury bribery scandal
TORONTO – Ontario Provincial Police have laid charges against Liberal Party fundraiser Gerry Lougheed for his alleged involvement in the Sudbury byelection bribery scandal.
Police said in a media release that the criminal charges come after a “complex investigation into allegations of irregularities involving a local electoral candidate nomination process in Sudbury.”
Lougheed faces one charge of counselling an offence not committed and another for unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments following allegations the Liberal Party offered a former candidate a job or appointment to step aside in a recent byelection.
Just before the Feb. 5 byelection, Andrew Olivier, the Liberal candidate in Sudbury in last year’s election, said Premier Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, and Sudbury Liberal Gerry Lougheed, offered him a position or appointment to step aside in favour of Wynne’s preferred choice, then-NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.
Thibeault won the seat over NDP candidate Suzanne Shawbonquit by just over 1,500 votes.
OPP Det. Superintendent Dave Truax confirmed to Global News the investigation has concluded and Sorbara won’t face any criminal charges.
Lougheed released a statement Thursday morning saying he would be “vigorously defending these charges in the courts” and that he has stepped down from his position at the Sudbury Regional Police Services Board and as Chancellor of Huntington University “until the matter is resolved.”
A report by the province’s electoral officer earlier this year said two Ontario Liberals, including the premier’s deputy chief of staff, appear to have contravened a bribery section of the Election Act.
In addition to the violating the Criminal Code, a conviction under the bribery section of the Election Act carries a penalty of up to $5,000. If a judge finds it was broken “knowingly,” the penalty is a fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to two years less a day in jail.
The OPP had questioned Wynne on the investigation which the premier’s office later confirmed took place.
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.
“Ihave never believed my staff did anything wrong,” Wynne told reporters in Toronto on Thursday. “I’ve been very open to the people of Ontario about the situation. Of course it’s a serious situation and we continue to take it seriously.”
“Of course it’s upsetting that this was something that became part of the discussion in an election process.”
Lougheed is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18.
With a file from The Canadian Press