SUDBURY, Ont. — The defence lawyer for one of two Ontario Liberals facing bribery charges under the Election Act says the case comes down to the definition of a candidate under the law.
Lawyers for Pat Sorbara, who was Wynne’s deputy chief of staff and Liberal campaign director, and local Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed are arguing in court today for the case to be tossed.
Their directed verdict application calls on the judge to dismiss the charges before the defence has even called any witnesses, arguing the Crown hasn’t proven its case.
Sorbara and Lougheed, who have pleaded not guilty, are accused of offering would-be candidate Andrew Olivier a job or appointment to step aside for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s preferred candidate in a 2015 byelection in Sudbury. That preferred candidate was Glenn Thibeault, then the NDP MP.
It is contrary to the Election Act to offer a job “to induce a person to become a candidate, refrain from becoming a candidate or withdraw his or her candidacy” but Lougheed’s lawyer says it was a legal impossibility for Olivier to become the Liberal candidate, since the premier had already decided Thibeault would be appointed.
The definition of a candidate in the Election Act suggests someone isn’t a candidate under that law until an election writ has been issued, and lawyer Michael Lacy notes that Sorbara and Lougheed spoke to Olivier roughly a month before the byelection was called.
Lacy argued the Crown is trying to broaden that definition and if the judge rules in their favour, it would drastically change how political parties operate.
“The Crown may not like the fact that internal party politics involve what some might describe (as) wheeling and dealing for the betterment of the party, but that’s not an offence in my submission,” Lacy said. (CJMX)
The Canadian Press