02/17/2015 04:00 EST | Updated 04/18/2015 05:59 EDT

Sudbury Byelection Scandal: Wynne Won't Ask Staffer To Resign

TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne insisted Tuesday there was no need for a senior aide in her office to step aside while the Ontario Provincial Police investigate Pat Sorbara's role in a Sudbury byelection.

"We don't think that's necessary (because) the role that Pat Sorbara plays as a deputy chief of staff is quite separate from her role as director of campaigns," said Wynne.

Police are probing allegations the Liberals offered a job to Andrew Olivier, their candidate in last June's election, to bow out of a Feb. 5 byelection in favour of Wynne's hand-picked candidate, New Democrat MP Glen Thibeault.

Olivier posted on YouTube audio of conversations he had with Sorbara and prominent Sudbury Liberal Gerry Lougheed, chair of the city's police services board, which Olivier said showed he was offered a job.

In one of the recordings, a man Olivier identified as Lougheed says: "We would like to present to you options in terms of appointments, jobs or whatever, that you and (Wynne) and Pat Sorbara can talk about.''

Wynne's office points out that Lougheed is neither a government nor Liberal staff member and speaks for himself. The premier insisted all she was trying to do was keep Olivier active in the party, and said she had already made the decision to appoint Thibeault, so there was no need to offer Olivier anything.

"There was no specific offer of anything in return for any specific action," she said. "It was a discussion about how this young person might want to stay involved and what possibilities might be that he could pursue ... and that's exactly the conversation I hope that any leader would have with a failed candidate."

It was the first time Wynne has commented since police filed a court document in which they allege there are grounds to believe an offence was committed.

Voters in Sudbury knew about the allegations and elected Thibeault anyway, said Wynne.

"The people of Sudbury had all this information as they went to the polls," she said.

With the legislature resuming Tuesday after its Christmas break, the opposition parties spent most of question period attacking Wynne over the byelection, clashing with Speaker Dave Levac every time they used the word "bribe" in a question.

"Did the premier personally make the decision to offer a 'blank' to Andrew Olivier not to run for office," asked a frustrated NDP house leader Gilles Bisson.

The New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives said Sorbara should quit Wynne's office and Lougheed should step down from Sudbury's police services board until the OPP investigation is completed.

"There's criminal allegations against (Sorbara) and should she really be on the government payroll," asked interim PC Leader Jim Wilson. "It shows very bad judgment by the premier herself."

Thibeault, who was called a "traitor" by a New Democrat MPP on his first day in the legislature, watched as question period was dominated by the scandal involving the byelection that he won.

"They can say what they want to say," he said. "You've got to put personal feelings aside and get a job done, and that's what I'm doing."

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