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Sudbury byelection scandal trial: Day 4

The trial into allegations of bribery during the 2015 Sudbury byelection enters its fourth day, with several key members of the Ontario Liberal party and behind-the-scenes power brokers expected to testify.

High-ranking Liberal brass facing charges of bribery for role in 2015 byelection

Former Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux makes his way into a Sudbury courtroom. (Natacha Lavigne/ Radio-Canada)

Two hours before the bombshell news that Sudbury MPP Joe Cimino was going to quit just months after being elected, Dominic Giroux got a text.

It was a message from then New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, who already knew Cimino was resigning for "personal reasons."

The then Laurentian University president was surprised and asked Thibeault if he was going to run for the seat. And if so, for which party.

Giroux testified that some 18 months before that, Thibeault had told him during a lunch that he was disenchanted with the New Democratic Party which he had been part of since being elected Sudbury MP in 2008 and was looking for other political opportunities.

Former Laurentian University President Dominic Giroux played a key role in Glenn Thibeault defecting from the federal NDP to the Ontario Liberals, including suggesting how the announcement should be made. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Giroux remembered Thibeault saying at that lunch that he didn't get along with the leadership of the provincial NDP, but was "very impressed" with Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.

That day of Cimino's announcement, Thibeault texted back to Giroux saying he didn't know if he'd jump to provincial politics yet, but knew that if he did, it wouldn't be for the NDP.

The court then heard that Giroux had a series of phone calls and emails with Liberal party officials in early December 2014, some of whom were personal friends from his time working in the Ministry of Education, where he discussed Thibeault as a potential Liberal candidate in Sudbury.

Giroux, who says he has never been a member of a political party but has donated to the Liberals, said he served as a liasion between Thibeault and the Liberals, including dicsussions on Thibeault's desire to get a cabinet post, which Premier Kathleen Wynne denied at one point.

"I personally wouldn't do it without a clear promise of a meaningful role in cabinet. If not, why bother," Giroux testified telling Thibeault.

"I thought it was important for Sudbury to have a member at cabinet," Giroux told the court through an interpreter.

Glenn Thibeault during his time as the New Democrat MP for Sudbury. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

When the discussion turned to whether Thibeault was a better choice than Andrew Olivier, who had carried the Liberal banner in Sudbury in the 2014 election, Giroux said he wasn't sure, but was confident that both were superior to former Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk, also said to be interested in the job.

Giroux also gave advice to the Ontario Liberal officials about how best to win Sudbury and wrote that "I was on a mission" to convince Thibeault to fill the empty provincial seat.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Giroux told the court. 

Andrew Olivier speaks to supporters the Plaza Hotel following his loss in the 2014 general election. (Erik White/CBC )

Court also heard the testimony of Aaron St. Pierre, who was Olivier's campaign manager for both the 2014 race as a Liberal and the 2015 byelection as an indpendent candidate.

St. Pierre largely said that he couldn't recall details from three years ago.

But the court did hear more about the coming testimony of Andre Bisson, the past vice-president of the Sudbury provincial Liberal riding association.

Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy had earlier referred to his lobbying efforts to get Olivier appointed as a candidate for the byelection, contrary to the belief in a democratic nomination process espoused by Olivier, his team and other Sudbury Liberals.

Lacy told the court Tuesday that Bisson is a former police officer, who did not turn over all relevant documents to police investigators months earlier, but sent a package of emails and other correspondence to the crown prosecutor after Olivier testified at the trial.

Bisson himself is on the crown's witness list.