POLITICS

Tories, NDP say Wynne crossed the line with comments on OPP byelection probe

02/27/2015 12:05 EST | Updated 04/29/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne "crossed the line" by saying she doesn't expect police to lay charges after they investigate the Liberals' actions in a Sudbury byelection, the opposition parties said Friday.

Wynne refuses to ask her deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, to step down while the OPP investigate allegations of bribery and corruption after a Liberal candidate said he was offered a job or appointment to step aside.

"If charges were laid, then Pat Sorbara would of course step aside," Wynne told the legislature Thursday. "On our review, we don't think that's going to happen, but that will be up to others to decide."

Progressive Conservative house leader Steve Clark said Wynne "crossed the line" with her comments.

"I think the premier needs to let the investigators do their work," said Clark. "She needs to stop interfering, stop making editorial comments, and let the investigations go through their due course."

NDP house leader Gilles Bisson said the premier has a duty to make sure she doesn't interfere with police, even indirectly.

"There's a difference when you're the premier to an average citizen and you do have a larger responsibility to make sure you're careful in the use of your words so you don't interfere in any kind of way," said Bisson.

"Maybe she hopes the police will hear her and at the end of the day nothing happens, and if that's the case that's pure interference."

Wynne's office responded to the accusations Friday by saying the Tories and NDP should let the police do their job.

"The opposition knows the investigation is entirely independent," said Wynne's press secretary, Lyndsay Miller.

Wynne's statement is not a direction being issued to police on the byelection probe, said Lawrence Gridin, a lawyer with Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP in Toronto.

"All she's saying is that she thinks Pat is innocent. I think she's entitled to say that."

Former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier released recordings of conversations with Sorbara and Sudbury Liberal Gerry Lougheed to support his claim that he was offered a job or appointment to step aside in the byelection.

Wynne maintains the Liberals were simply trying to keep a former candidate active in the party, and that no specific offers were made to Olivier, who came second in last June's general election to New Democrat Joe Cimino.

The opposition parties have been demanding Wynne fire Sorbara and have Lougheed removed as chair of the Sudbury police services board until the police investigation is completed.

The OPP are investigating whether the alleged offer to Olivier contravened the corruption section of the Criminal Code and also whether the bribery section of the province's Election Act was violated.

Elections Ontario came to the "unprecedented'' conclusion Sorbara and Lougheed's actions constituted an "apparent contravention'' of the act, but it has no mandate to conduct prosecutions. The report was turned over to the OPP for follow up.

Wynne appointed former NDP MP Glenn Thibeault as the Liberal candidate in Sudbury, and he won the Feb. 5 byelection.

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