01/07/2015 04:00 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT

Sudbury Byelection 2015: Kathleen Wynne Calls Vote For Feb. 5

TORONTO - The stage is set for a strongly contested byelection next month in Sudbury, Ont., where accusations of illegal activity and "turncoat" barbs have already been tossed around.

Premier Kathleen Wynne called the vote for Feb. 5 to replace a New Democrat who quit after just five months on the job.

The race has already split Liberal ranks in Sudbury after the party's candidate in last June's general election, Andrew Olivier, said he was asked by Wynne to step aside because she had another candidate in mind.

Wynne has said she reached out to Olivier to let him know they had another candidate lined up — the Liberals convinced New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault to quit the NDP and run for the Ontario Liberals — but has denied any "specific offers" were made to Olivier.

Olivier said a Liberal official asked him not to seek the nomination and he should "see what was in it" for him, and another official "reiterated suggestions of a job or appointment."

The Liberals have said they discussed ways Olivier could remain involved in the party, but did not offer him anything in return for stepping aside.

Olivier announced this week — on his 36th birthday and a day that marked 21 years since a hockey accident left him a quadriplegic — that he would run in the byelection as an independent candidate.

"We need to have a voice at Queen's Park representing Sudbury first and foremost," he said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "We needed to have a candidate in this byelection who was going to be committed, loyal, open and very transparent."

Even though he is not running under the Liberal banner this time, Olivier said he remains a centrist, but one who will be able to advocate for Sudbury with "no strings attached."

The Progressive Conservatives asked the Ontario Provincial Police to look into Olivier's allegations and the NDP directed them to Elections Ontario.

An OPP spokesman said Wednesday he was not in a position to speak about the status of the matter, but "will be in the near future."

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

Four people are set to seek the NDP nomination Sunday.

Leader Andrea Horwath touted her party's open nomination process, calling the Liberals a team that shuts down local voices and appoints candidates.

"I think it's pretty obvious that Mr. Thibeault has made a bit of a cynical decision on the heels of a cynical ploy by Kathleen Wynne, and I think the people of Sudbury will have an interesting opportunity to make a decision around what kind of person they want to be representing them," she said.

Horwath did not go as far as Ontario NDP house leader Gilles Bisson, who has called Thibeault a "turncoat MP who is more interested in his own career than the people of Sudbury."

In addition to Olivier and Thibeault, the person selected for the NDP will be challenging Progressive Conservative candidate Paula Peroni, who finished a distant third in the June general election and professor David Robinson, who is running for the Green Party.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly spelled Andrew Olivier's surname

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