TORONTO — Ontario’s opposition parties called on Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault to resign his cabinet post Thursday after being named in an Election Act charge against the premier’s former deputy chief of staff.
Pat Sorbara was charged this week with two bribery counts under the act, and one allegation is that she offered Thibeault something in exchange for running for the provincial Liberals. Thibeault was a New Democrat MP for Sudbury, Ont., before he ran for the Ontario Liberals in a byelection in that riding in February 2015.
Police allege that at some point between Nov. 19, 2014 and the day after the byelection Sorbara promised to get Thibeault “an office or employment” to induce him to become a candidate.
Progressive Conservative deputy leader Steve Clark said that when the integrity of a minister is called into question, they have a responsibility to step aside during an investigation.
“There used to be a time when ministers took their integrity seriously and believed they had to have the trust of the province, but that no longer exists in Liberal Ontario,” he said in the legislature. “One last time, I implore the premier, please, do the right thing. Stand up, premier, walk over to the minister’s desk and ask him to resign.”
Sorbara recently took a leave of absence from her job as Wynne’s deputy chief of staff to become the Ontario Liberals’ CEO and 2018 campaign director, posts she resigned from when the charges were laid.
But Thibeault himself is not charged nor is he under investigation, the premier and attorney general said Thursday in response to repeated opposition questions.
The NDP also called for Thibeault’s resignation and expressed frustration at the government’s refrain that the case is before the courts.
“I think the government doesn’t understand what’s going on here,” said deputy leader Jagmeet Singh. “This is not a matter of litigating the case. No one’s trying to litigate the case here. If you have that belief, you’re clearly mistaken. This is a matter of integrity. The people of Ontario deserve a government with integrity.”
Thibeault said after question period that he will not be offering his resignation since he isn’t the one facing charges.
“As it stands right now, absolutely not,” he said. “What I’m seeing, in my opinion, is a character assassination in question period.”
Thibeault has said the premier did not offer him a cabinet position in exchange for running, nor did Sorbara make him any offers. Sorbara has said she believes the charges against her will not succeed and she is “shocked” by any suggestion she has done something wrong.
Sorbara also faces one bribery count over allegations she and Sudbury Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed – who also faces one bribery count – offered Andrew Olivier, a previous Sudbury Liberal candidate who intended to run for them again in the byelection, a job or appointment to get him to step aside for Thibeault.
Wynne has said that discussions with Olivier were about trying to keep him in the party fold, and that there was no quid pro quo because she had already decided to appoint Thibeault as the candidate before she, Sorbara and Lougheed spoke with Olivier.
Lougheed had also been charged criminally in the Sudbury byelection investigation, with one count of counselling an offence not committed and one count of unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments, but those charges were stayed earlier this year.
Lougheed’s lawyer, Michael Lacy, said his client has maintained “he didn’t do anything that would attract a culpable finding.”