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Wynne grilled over byelection scandal as Ontario legislature resumes

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaking to reporters on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Peter Dworschak

MPPs returned to the Ontario legislature on Tuesday after a nine-week break, and as expected, the criminal investigation involving the Liberal government was front and centre.

The Ontario provincial police are investigating after Andrew Olivier, a candidate in a Sudbury byelection, alleged that the party offered him a job or appointment if he stepped aside so former NDP MP Glenn Thibeault could run.

Thibault won the byelection and is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.

Police filed a court document in which they say there are grounds to believe an offence was committed.

The Liberals have maintained no specific offer was made to Olivier.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has not faced questions from reporters since the document was filed and was grilled by the Official Opposition during question period.

Jim Wilson, the interim leader of Ontario PC Party, told Wynne that “sure sounds like a bribe to me.”

“Caught on tape is a discussion between your deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, saying to your former candidate Andrew Olivier, quote ‘we should have the broader discussion about what it is that you’d be most interested in doing,'” Wilson said.

Wynne said she made a decision as the leader of the party to appoint a candidate.

“I had decided that I did not want that young man to find out that I had appointed a candidate in the newspaper. That’s why I had a conversation with him, Mr. Speaker. I wanted him to know that we wanted him to be involved,” she said.

The premier said she will not ask her deputy chief of staff to step aside while police investigate Sorbara’s role in the byelection.

Wynne said Sorbara’s role as the Liberal campaign director is separate from her duties in the premier’s office, so there’s no need for her to resign during the police investigation.

MacLeod not running in federal riding

Aside from question period, former Ontario PC leadership hopeful MPP Lisa MacLeod has ruled out taking a run at the federal level in the riding that will soon be vacated by former foreign affairs minister John Baird.

MacLeod, who pulled out of the party leadership race on Feb. 6, was re-elected to a four-year term in the Nepean-Carleton riding during last summer’s provincial election.

“I intend to honour my commitment to complete this four year mandate and help Christine Elliott form a Progressive Conservative government in 2018,” Macleod said in a statement.

She said she received plenty of encouragement to “to consider a run for federal Parliament,” but decided that it was not a “realistic option” for her family.

“We have been in constant campaign mode for close to five years. Our nine-year-old daughter Victoria deserves a break from door knocking, phone calls and late night campaign meetings,” MacLeod said.

OPSEU members hold rally

Meanwhile, Ontario’s public service workers held a rally at Queen’s Park to “demand the Liberal government negotiate a fair contract with 35,000 direct ministry employees.”

Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas were joined by other Ontario public sector union leaders.

Ontario's public service workers rally at Queen's Park on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
Ontario’s public service workers rally at Queen’s Park on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
Ontario's public service workers rally at Queen's Park on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
Ontario’s public service workers rally at Queen’s Park on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
A caricature of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at the public service workers rally at Queen's Park on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Peter Dworschak
A caricature of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at the public service workers rally at Queen’s Park on Feb. 17, 2015. CITYNEWS/Peter Dworschak

With files from Fil Martino and The Canadian Press