Sudbury NDP MP Glenn Thibeault has been lured by Premier Kathleen Wynne to be the Liberal candidate in the upcoming Sudbury byelection.
"Things between the federal NDP and I haven't been on the same plane," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
"We haven't been seeing eye-to-eye. It's not anything in negative, but I think my time with the federal NDP, and in federal politics, was coming to an end."
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In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Thibeault says he was "proud to announce that I will be running as the Ontario Liberal party candidate in the upcoming by-election in my community of Sudbury."
The New Democrat MP says he made the decision to move to provincial politics "after much reflection and discussion," and adds that it was not an easy one.
"It has been an honour and a privilege to serve my community for the past 6 years at the federal level, but my time at the federal level has come to an end," he notes.
"I have spoken to Premier Kathleen Wynne about her plan to create greater opportunity and security for all Ontarians – and her plan is exactly what Sudbury needs."
The statement makes no reference to his former party, but states that he is "very excited to be part of the Ontario Liberal team."
"I know I will be a more effective champion working at the provincial level," he said.
Thibeault stepped down as the federal NDP's caucus chair earlier this fall, citing family reasons. His Tuesday statement said "Sudbury is my home, it is where my wife and I are raising our family."
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair spoke to Thibeault as recently as Sunday, sources say, but was given no indication of Thibeault's intentions. Mulcair was informed by email only after the decision had been made public Tuesday.
Thibeault was elected as a federal MP in the 2008 election. As of October, he had served six years — long enough to be eligible for the MP pension plan.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates that over the course of his lifetime, Thibeault could collect more than one million dollars in pension benefits: he'll receive an annual pension of $30,436 when he turns 55 in 2024, and that amount will be fully indexed from the age of 65.
Thibeault's resignation follows Friday's announcement by NDP deputy leader Libby Davies that she will not run in the next election.
Offer to step aside?
Thibeault's announcement comes after a top Ontario Liberal party official refuted a claim by their recent Sudbury candidate that he was asked not to run in an upcoming byelection in exchange for an appointment.
Andrew Olivier, who narrowly lost to now-resigned NDP MPP Joe Cimino in last June's election, said he was asked by high-ranking Liberal officials — including campaign director Pat Sorbara and Premier Kathleen Wynne — to step aside.
Olivier said one party official told him that if he didn't run they would "see what was in it" for him.
Sorbara said the claim that "anything was offered in exchange for any action is categorically false," while Wynne denied that she or any members of her party promised an appointment.
Wynne said that, while she reached out to Olivier to let him know the Liberals had another candidate in mind, there were no "specific offers" made.
Olivier said he is not seeking the nomination for the byelection, which has yet to be called.
The Progressive Conservatives have asked the Ontario Provincial Police to look into the allegations.
The provincial NDP directed the allegations to Elections Ontario, saying that under the Election Act it is an offence to promise a job or appointment to induce a person to withdraw their candidacy.
Ontario NDP MPP Gilles Bisson called the development "cynical politicking" Tuesday, adding that Thibeault should step down immediately and ensure he does not use any of his federal MP resources for his campaign.
"The announcement... says a lot about the values of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal party. They are willing to allegedly bribe a lifelong Liberal to make way for a turncoat MP who is more interested in his own career than the people of Sudbury," Bisson said in a statement.
NDP caucus chair Irene Mathyssen said she was "saddened and disappointed to lose a respected friend and colleague."
"I understand the allure of power for some, but don’t really understand his choice since Ms. Wynne’s Liberals have proven time and again they are not a progressive government.”
Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas called Thibeault's move "opportunistic".
"This is very self-centred. Those are all bad qualities in my book."
Gelinas, and Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle, said they didn't learn about Thibeault's decision until Tuesday morning.
"We're going to do everything we can to win Sudbury federally next time," said Gravelle. "And we're going to do everything we can to win Sudbury provincially."
In a statement, Wynne said she was "thrilled" to have Thibeault as her candidate, saying he brings "a strong track record of serving his constituents and championing the needs of his community."
"I need Glenn’s experience and energy as we move forward with our 4-point plan to build Sudbury, and the rest of Ontario, up," Wynne said. "I will be announcing the date of the byelection in the New Year.”
Glenn Thibeault was interviewed on CBC Sudbury and Thunder Bay's Up North radio program Tuesday afternoon.