MPP Bill Walker has apologized for suggesting Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was facing criminal charges during an appearance on AM640’s The Morning Show.
Walker appeared on the show Tuesday to discuss how schools are being affected by Toronto’s condo boom. During the interview, co-host Supriya Dwivedi asked Walker about what it means for Ontario to have the premier testify at the trial.
“At the end of the day, whether you’re the premier or who you are, if you’ve done things inappropriately, if you’ve broken the law, then you need to pay the price,” he said.
“I hope what will happen at the end of this trial, one of four that say she’s up on charges for, will hopefully shed some light on the situation and if she’s found to be guilty, then I think she has to do the honourable thing and step down.”
Wynne, who will be testifying as a witness on Wednesday at the trial in Sudbury, is not facing any criminal charges.
Before making the comments, Walker said it was “sad we are looking forward” to the testimony.
“You should never have people in leadership positions like your premier that are under four different investigations for these types of things,” Walker said.
“So it speaks to, again, credibility. It speaks to trust and I’m looking forward to it because hopefully the truth will prevail.”
After Walker’s appearance, Wynne’s lawyer sent a letter to the Progressive Conservative MPP demanding an apology and retraction. Sheldon Inkol said Walker made “false and defamatory” comments during his interview. Inkol said Wynne isn’t under investigation or facing charges.
“Your statements are false and misleading and appear to have been made with the intention to harm the reputation of Ms. Wynne,” he said in part, referencing an attached transcript of the interview.
“The premier has cooperated as a witness in this matter from the outset. The premier has gone so far as to waive her parliamentary privilege and will voluntarily appear as a witness at the trial when called.”
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The letter said Walker “could be the subject of a defamation action” and that he “can have no evidence to support” the statements.
“Despite the inaccuracy of your statements, your status as an MPP increases the likelihood that these falsehoods will be repeated by others, increasing the potential harm to the premier’s reputation.”
The letter requested Walker to publish a “full retraction of the defamatory statements,” provide a full verbal and written apology – both of which were asked to happen on AM640 by 5 p.m. Friday – and a request to not make “any further defamatory statements whatsoever about Premier Wynne.”
Walker issued a brief statement Wednesday evening to Global News and AM640 apologizing for his comments.
“When asked about the testimony of Premier Wynne at the upcoming trial of Patricia Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed, I misspoke by implying that the premier is under investigation and facing charges,” he said.
“The premier is not, in fact, under investigation or facing charges. I regret the error and apologize for it without reservation.”
The trial in Sudbury centres around former Ontario Liberal Party CEO Pat Sorbara, who faces two charges, and Sudbury Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed, who faces one charge. They both deny wrongdoing.
In late 2014, the Sudbury riding became vacant when the New Democrat who won it five months earlier stepped down for health reasons. The Liberals had their eye on winning back a riding that until 2014, they had held for about two decades.
Andrew Olivier, who was the Liberal candidate in the riding in the general election, wanted to run again, but Wynne had other ideas. She ended up successfully convincing the riding’s NDP MP Glenn Thibeault to run for the provincial Liberals.
Sorbara and Lougheed are alleged to have offered Olivier a job or appointment in exchange for stepping aside for Thibeault, who was ultimately given the post of energy minister last year.
Wynne previously said that she had already decided Olivier would not be the byelection candidate by the time Sorbara and Lougheed spoke to him, therefore anything offered was not in exchange for stepping aside. Rather, Wynne said she was trying to keep him in the party fold.
Global News contacted Wynne’s office to ask about Walker’s apology statement. A spokesperson said in a written response that the letter stands, adding Wynne’s lawyer will be monitoring a potential follow-up appearance by Walker on AM640.
AM640 is an affiliate station of Global News.
With files from The Canadian Press