POLITICS

Kathleen Wynne Denies Job Offered To Sudbury Liberal To Step Aside

12/15/2014 02:27 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne denied Monday that she or any members of Ontario's governing Liberal party promised an appointment to get their Sudbury candidate in last June's election to step aside for an upcoming byelection.

Wynne said she reached out to Andrew Olivier to let him know the Liberals had another candidate in mind, but there were no "specific offers" made.

"What I did say and others in the team said to Andrew was that we hope you stay involved," Wynne said. "But there were no specific commitments."

The Progressive Conservatives have asked the Ontario Provincial Police to look into the allegations and the NDP have directed the allegations to Elections Ontario.

Olivier announced Monday in Sudbury that he would not seek the Liberal nomination for the upcoming byelection after being asked to step aside by high-ranking Liberal officials, including Wynne herself.

"My message is clear: I will not be bullied or bought," he said in a statement. "I was raised better than that and Sudburians are better than that."

Olivier said he was first contacted by a Liberal official who asked him not to seek the nomination as they had a preferred candidate in mind. Olivier said he was told that if he stepped aside he should "see what was in it" for him.

"Shortly after, Premier Kathleen Wynne contacted me by phone and also told me she wanted someone else as the candidate," he said. "She has a vision for Sudbury but her vision did not include me as this candidate. And I respected her vision but didn't agree with it."

Then Pat Sorbara, the Ontario Liberal campaign director, contacted him and "reiterated suggestions of a job or appointment," Olivier said.

"At that point, I was informed that if I sought the nomination, the premier was prepared to bypass the nomination process, and appoint their chosen candidate," he said.

Sorbara said she reached out to Olivier and "discussed ways he could remain involved."

"Any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is categorically false," she said in a statement.

Progressive Conservative Steve Clark said in a letter to OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes that he believes the alleged Liberal actions could contravene sections of the Criminal Code that relate to offering government advantages and securing appointments.

"I just happen to feel again that when it comes to transparency and accountability Kathleen Wynne and her government say one thing and do something completely different," Clark said in an interview. "These alleged actions disturb me and I felt compelled as the Opposition house leader to write to commissioner Hawkes."

Clark also wrote a letter asking Elections Ontario to investigate whether there was a violation of the Elections Act, and included a copy of his letter to Hawkes.

The NDP's house leade also asked Elections Ontario to investigate Olivier's allegations, pointing to the Election Act, which makes it an offence to promise a job or appointment to induce a person to withdraw their candidacy.

"The allegation made by Mr. Olivier is deeply concerning," Gilles Bisson wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa. "Given the possibility that a byelection could be called at any time, I request a complete and immediate investigation by your office."

Olivier finished second in the June 12 election, 980 votes behind New Democrat Joe Cimino, who surprised everyone by resigning last month after just five months as a member of provincial parliament.

Wynne, who has until next May to call the byelection, did not say who the Liberals want to have as their candidate in Sudbury. She called Olivier a great candidate and a "fine young man."

"We were working with Andrew to let him know that there were other people on the horizon and didn't want him to find that out in the newspaper or some other way," she said.

"He has an enormous amount to offer and I hope he will stay involved in politics. I hope he'll stay involved in the Liberal party."

Olivier told supporters in Sudbury he didn't believe he was being pushed aside by the Liberals because he is a quadriplegic.

"Anyone who has a disability knows a major challenge is maintaining your self-respect and dignity, which is not easy when you depend on so many people," he said. "I have worked hard over 20 years since my injury to maintain a strong sense of dignity. That won't change now."

(With files from CJMX Sudbury)

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