Sudbury Byelection Scandal: Criminal Charges Stayed Against Ontario Liberal Fundraiser

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SUDBURY, Ont. — Charges in a byelection scandal in Sudbury, Ont., have been stayed against a veteran Liberal fundraiser, though a separate bribery investigation is ongoing.

Gerry Lougheed had been charged with one count of counselling an offence not committed and one count of unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments.

Police had alleged Lougheed offered a would-be Liberal candidate for a byelection last year a job or appointment to step aside for Premier Kathleen Wynne's preferred candidate.

glenn thibeault
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Liberal Glenn Thibeault embrace as they celebrate their byelection win in Sudbury, Ontario on Thursday Feb. 5, 2014. (Photo: Thomas Duncan/CP)

But those charges were stayed Wednesday, meaning they are effectively dropped, at least for the time being. The Crown can choose to reactivate them within a year, but that is rare.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, speaking at an unrelated event in Brantford, Ont., said she thinks it is a good outcome.

However, the Ontario Provincial Police are still investigating Lougheed and Wynne's deputy chief of staff's byelection conduct under the Election Act.

Crown wasn't even in court

Elections Ontario found an "apparent contravention" by Lougheed and Pat Sorbara of a section of the act concerning "bribery in connection with inducing a person to become, refrain from becoming, or withdrawing from being a candidate."

The chief electoral officer referred the investigation to the Ontario Provincial Police in February 2015, but Det.-Supt. Dave Truax said Wednesday that probe is ongoing.

Lougheed's lawyer, Michael Lacy, said he was not given any reason for the stay, noting the Crown wasn't even in court.

"In terms of transparency, in terms of accountability to the public, in terms of accountability to my client, at least at this stage, the Crown has chosen not to give any explanation at all as to why they've stayed those charges," he said.

"It seems pretty clear today that what happened in light of the stay of proceedings today that the decision to proceed with criminal charges was done prematurely, was done in circumstances where they had not either fully investigated the matter or fully considered whether or not this could meet the threshold for a criminal charge."

"There will still be this heavy burden for him to carry on behalf of a party that right now won't give him the time of day anymore, that's completely cast him away."

The province had turned over Lougheed's case to the federal Public Prosecution Service, which would not comment on the reason for the stay.

The would-be candidate, Andrew Olivier, as a quadriplegic who records conversations in lieu of taking notes, taped both Lougheed and Sorbara and posted the audio online in late 2014.

Lougheed said he was there "on behalf of the premier" to ask if he would step aside and, "We would like to present to you options in terms of appointments, jobs or whatever."

New Democrat MPP France Gelinas noted that the party distanced itself from Lougheed at the time.

"It was quite obvious from the start that he was only the messenger," she said. "There will still be this heavy burden for him to carry on behalf of a party that right now won't give him the time of day anymore, that's completely cast him away," she said.

Wynne, who also spoke to Olivier but was not recorded, has said neither she nor Sorbara did anything wrong and were merely trying to keep Olivier in the party fold.

— By Allison Jones in Toronto with files from CJMX

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