Andrew Olivier, the party's candidate in last June's general election who lost by fewer than 1,000 votes, was asked by Premier Kathleen Wynne to step aside for the upcoming Feb. 5 byelection because she had another candidate in mind — which she later revealed to be NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.
Olivier, who is a quadriplegic and records conversations in lieu of taking notes, posted audio to YouTube of a conversation with a man he identified as Gerry Lougheed, a Liberal and chair of Sudbury's police services board.
"I come to you on behalf of the premier, and on behalf of Mr. Thibeault more indirectly, to ask you if you would consider stepping down and more than that Andrew, nominating him," the man identified as Lougheed is heard saying.
"In the course of that deliberation the premier wants to talk to you. We would like to present to you options in terms of appointments, jobs or whatever, that you and her and (Ontario Liberal campaign director) Pat Sorbara can talk about."
Lougheed is neither a government nor Liberal staff member and speaks for himself, the premier's office said in a statement.
Lougheed did not return messages left for him at the police services board and the funeral home he runs.
Wynne spoke with Olivier after Lougheed and she has said she encouraged him to stay involved, but that there were no specific offers or commitments made.
Sorbara called Olivier the next day and suggested Wynne had all but decided to appoint Thibeault as the candidate in favour of an open nomination race.
"We should have the broader discussion about what is it that you'd be most interested in doing then decide what shape that could take that would fulfil that, is what I'm getting at, whether it's a full-time or part-time job at a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments to boards or commissions, whether it is also going on the (party executive)," Sorbara said.
The tapes vindicate Sorbara, the premier's office said in its statement.
"The tape confirms what Pat Sorbara said publicly last month — that any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is false," Wynne's office said. "Olivier had already been informed that he would not be the candidate."
The Sudbury seat was vacated in November by New Democrat Joe Cimino, who resigned after just five months as a member of provincial parliament. The seat was previously a long-held Liberal riding and Sorbara told Olivier the premier is desperate — "desperate in a good way" — to get it back.
The Progressive Conservatives had asked the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate Olivier's allegations, suggesting they could contravene sections of the Criminal Code that relate to offering government advantages and securing appointments.
The OPP determined this week no criminal offence was committed, but a spokesman wouldn't say Thursday whether investigators listened to Olivier's recordings.
Steve Clark, the Tory MPP who first made the complaint to the OPP, wrote to the commissioner again Thursday asking him to reopen the investigation, suggesting the recordings were not part of the police's original examination.
Both the Tories and the NDP have also asked Elections Ontario to investigate if the alleged Liberal actions contravened the Election Act.
Clark said he pointed out the recordings Thursday to Elections Ontario and they told him they would examine the audio.
NDP house leader Gilles Bisson said this situation lands squarely at the feet of the premier.
"I think the premier at the end of the day has to accept responsibility or it just demonstrates that she's not in control of what's going on in that party," he said.