Two trials involving charges against Ontario Liberals are set to take place simultaneously this fall, setting the stage for possible verdicts just months ahead of the June 2018 election.
Lawyers for two Liberals facing Election Act bribery charges appeared in court Wednesday in Sudbury, Ont., as trial dates were set for Sept. 7-22, Oct. 10-13 and 23-27.
That means the trial of Pat Sorbara, the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed will begin just four days before the start of another major political trial in Toronto.
David Livingston and Laura Miller, who were then-premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, face charges of breach of trust, and mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system to commit the offence of mischief.
They were charged after a police investigation into the deletion of emails about the Liberals’ decision to cancel two gas plants prior to the 2011 election, at a cost of up to $1.1 billion.
Both Miller and Livingston have denied the charges. Their trial is scheduled the trial for six weeks starting Sept. 11.
Unlike the gas plants trial, the Sudbury trial is not on criminal charges, rather Sorbara faces two bribery charges under the Election Act and Lougheed faces one. Lougheed had been charged criminally, with one count of counselling an offence not committed and one count of unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments, but those charges were stayed last year.
The charges stem from allegations the pair offered a would-be candidate a job or appointment to get him to step aside in a 2015 byelection in Sudbury so that Glenn Thibeault could run for the provincial Liberals. He was then a New Democrat MP and is now the energy minister.
Sorbara and Lougheed both deny the charges.
June 27 was also set as a confirmation hearing to make sure all of the parties are ready for a trial to start in September.
The Liberals are also still under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, who are looking into financial irregularities at the Ornge air ambulance service, and investigating complaints from Trillium Power Wind Corp. about the alleged destruction of documents in a lawsuit it filed against the province.
With files from CJMX in Sudbury