Man at centre of Ontario Liberal bribery allegations believed party jobs were on offer

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SUDBURY, Ont. – A man at the centre of bribery allegations against two Ontario Liberals says he believed they were offering him opportunities within the party and not government appointments.

Pat Sorbara, the Ontario Liberal Party CEO at the time of the allegations, and Gerry Lougheed, a local Liberal fundraiser, are facing bribery charges under the Election Act.

They’re accused of offering would-be candidate Andrew Olivier a job or appointment to get him to step aside for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s preferred candidate in a 2015 byelection in Sudbury.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

READ MORE: Trial for 2 Ontario Liberals facing Election Act bribery charges begins

Under cross-examination today, Olivier said he believed Sorbara and Lougheed were talking about positions within the Liberal party, and neither directly said they could get him a public appointment.

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The defence lawyers’ position is that the conversations involved internal party nomination processes, and not the public electoral process of becoming a candidate, which is governed by the Election Act.

Wynne’s preferred candidate was Glenn Thibeault – at the time an NDP MP, now the Ontario energy minister – who she ultimately appointed as the candidate and who went on to win the byelection.

READ MORE: PC MPP apologizes for comments about Kathleen Wynne, Sudbury byelection trial

Court heard Thursday that one of the two charges Sorbara faces relates to an allegation that Thibeault asked for paid jobs on his byelection campaign for two constituency office staffers, and that Sorbara granted that request.

Thibeault has previously denied he sought anything that would be seen as a bribe in exchange for running and is not charged with any offences.

The premier herself is set to testify on Wednesday.