Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is asking the Opposition to stop attacking her staff for allegedly acting inappropriately when appointing a candidate in the recent Sudbury byelection.
On Thursday, Elections Ontario said the actions of Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, and local Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed, constitute an “apparent contravention” of a bribery section of the Election Act.
Andrew Olivier, the original Liberal candidate in the byelection, has accused Sorbara and Lougheed of offering him a job or appointment to step aside so MP Glenn Thibeault, a former New Democrat, could run.
At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Wynne insisted she talked to Olivier about keeping him in the party, but “at no time was I prepared to offer him anything to do so.”
She also said Olivier clearly knew he was not going to be the Liberal candidate.
Ontario provincial police are investigating whether the alleged actions violated the Criminal Code.
Wynne has said she will not ask Sorbara to take leave while police investigate her role in the byelection, and the premier reiterated that at Friday afternoon’s news conference.
“I will not force someone to resign in the face of allegations that I do not believe to be true,” Wynne said.
“I understand the to-and-fro of question period, but accusing people of being criminals when there is an investigation going on is wrong.”
Wynne called Sorbara a woman of “integrity,” who will step aside only if charges are laid.
Wynne said she “firmly believes” the allegations of bribery are false and that the OPP investigation won’t lead to charges.
“I call on the honourable members on the other side of the house to stop attacking people in this manner. It is unfair to individuals and to their families, no matter who they are or what party they belong to,” she said.
At the news conference, the premier said the attacks are “hypocritical” because, she claims, Opposition members offered to quit their seats in exchange for government jobs, though she refused to name names.
The NDP and Conservatives have called on Wynne to come clean about her own role in the affair.
With files from The Canadian Press