When MPPs return to the Ontario Legislature on Monday morning, it’s likely the opposition parties will pick up where they left off on Thursday — hammering Kathleen Wynne's government over what's become known as the Sudbury bribery scandal.
Day after day since the legislature resumed sitting on Feb. 17, the issue has been the only thing on the minds of Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.
Both opposition parties clearly smell some political blood with the Ontario Provincial Police now investigating the premier's deputy chief of staff Pat Sorbara and longtime Liberal and Sudbury Police Services Board chair Gerry Lougheed Jr.
Anti-rackets squad detectives are trying to get to the bottom of allegations of bribery. Was an offer of a job or appointment made to Andrew Olivier in exchange for him not to run as a candidate in the Feb. 5 Sudbury provincial byelection? And does that constitute bribery?
To add fuel to the fire, Wynne’s hand-picked candidate, Sudbury's former federal NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, was just rewarded with an appointment – elevated from Liberal backbencher to parliamentary assistant to the environment minister, a sure sign he's heading to the Wynne cabinet.
The selection of the ministry, oddly, seems appropriate, since Thibeault's election has changed the environment of the legislature into a rather nasty place, stuck on the one issue.
The numbers of last week – with its four question periods, Monday through Thursday – tell the story of how the byelection and, its fallout has come to dominate the agenda. Here are a few of them:
The number of times the word "Sudbury" has been used by the government and opposition.
The number of questions that deal with the bribery scandal.
The number of scandal-related questions asked by interim PC Leader Jim Wilson and his caucus.
The number of scandal-related questions asked by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and her caucus.
The number of times the premier directly responded to opposition questions.
The number of times the premier has redirected scandal-related questions to deputy premier Deb Matthews.
The number of times Matthews directly answered questions raised by the opposition.
The number of times Wynne has said she and Thibeault were "cleared" of any wrongdoing by the chief electoral officer.
The number of times Wynne has said "an investigation is going on" outside "the House."
The number of times Wynne has said the investigation needs "to be allowed to unfold."
The number of times Wynne has said she "takes this matter seriously."
The number of times Matthews answered a question referring to all three: "ongoing investigation," "needs to unfold," and "takes the matter seriously."
The number of times Sorbara's name has been mentioned, in the context of being under investigation by the OPP.
The number of times Thibeault's name has been used by the Conservatives and New Democrats.
The number of times Thibeault's name has been noted positively by the Liberals, including last Wednesday when the Sudbury MPP's name was mentioned 17 times.
The numbers on Thibeault's annual pay cheque as a Liberal MPP and parliamentary assistant.
The number of questions still to come on the so-called Sudbury bribery scandal.
A big number remaining on Liberal minds is 2018. That is when the next provincial election is scheduled to be held, so whatever the outcome of the investigation and ongoing questions, it is early in the Liberals four-year majority mandate.
But that also works in favour of the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, because there is a lot of time left to continue to chipping away at Wynne's popularity and her pledge to bring a new and higher standard of conduct to Queen's Park.
There is every indication that remains job number 1 for both parties.
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