SUDBURY, Ont. — Charges in a byelection scandal in Sudbury, Ont., have been stayed against a veteran Liberal fundraiser, though a separate bribery investigation is ongoing.
Gerry Lougheed had been charged with one count of counselling an offence not committed and one count of unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments.
Police had alleged Lougheed offered a would-be Liberal candidate for a byelection last year a job or appointment to step aside for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s preferred candidate.
But those charges were stayed Wednesday, meaning they are effectively dropped, at least for the time being. The Crown can choose to reactivate them within a year, but that is rare.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, speaking at an unrelated event in Brantford, Ont., said she thinks it is a good outcome.
However, the Ontario Provincial Police are still investigating Lougheed and Wynne’s deputy chief of staff’s byelection conduct under the Election Act.
Elections Ontario found an “apparent contravention” by Lougheed and Pat Sorbara of a section of the act concerning “bribery in connection with inducing a person to become, refrain from becoming, or withdrawing from being a candidate.”
The chief electoral officer referred the investigation to the Ontario Provincial Police in February 2015, but Det.-Supt. Dave Truax said Wednesday that probe is ongoing.
Lougheed’s lawyer, Michael Lacy, said he was not given any reason for the stay, noting the Crown wasn’t even in court.
“In terms of transparency, in terms of accountability to the public, in terms of accountability to my client, at least at this stage, the Crown has chosen not to give any explanation at all as to why they’ve stayed those charges,” he said.
“It seems pretty clear today that what happened in light of the stay of proceedings today that the decision to proceed with criminal charges was done prematurely, was done in circumstances where they had not either fully investigated the matter or fully considered whether or not this could meet the threshold for a criminal charge.”
The province had turned over Lougheed’s case to the federal Public Prosecution Service, which would not comment on the reason for the stay.
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.