Sudbury byelection trial: New taped conversation details Liberal in-fighting

The bribery allegations against two high ranking Ontario Liberals were laid out on the first day of the Sudbury byelection trial. But the court also heard about the strife that was gripping the local Liberal party heading into that crucial vote.

Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed on trial for bribing candidates ahead of 2015 byelection

Gerry Lougheed Jr. leaves Sudbury court on the first day of his bribery trial. (Yvon Theriault/ Radio-Canada CBC)

The long-awaited trial based on taped conversations released three years ago, began with the release of a new tape.

It's another phone call between Liberal CEO Pat Sorbara and former Sudbury candidate Andrew Olivier recorded on November 23, 2014, which is after NDP MPP Joe Cimino quit suddenly, but before NDP MP Glenn Thibeault decided to defect to the Ontario Liberals.

Hear the whole thing here:

A third conversation taped by Andrew Olivier in 2014 has been released during the byelection bribery trial. It's a phone call Olivier received from Liberal CEO Pat Sorbara. 17:15

During that call, they talk about the need to avoid the in-fighting that had troubled the party in the past.

Olivier tells Sorbara how retired Sudbury MPP and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci didn't seem to want the Liberals to hold on to his old seat in 2014.

"We had some times during the campaign when we were getting sabotaged by his camp," Olivier says on the tape.

"He wanted the Libs to know that it was a Rick riding and not a Liberal riding."

Sorbara also talks about a feud between Bartolucci and local Liberal power broker Gerry Lougheed, once close friends who were said to speak every day, but whom at this point in 2014 did not want to work together at all.

Former Liberal Party CEO Pat Sorbara leaves court in Sudbury on the first day of her trial for bribery. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

"Bartolucci from the beginning made that a choice for us, right. 'If I deal with Gerry on any level then I'm out. So it's me or it's Gerry,'" Sorbara tells Olivier, adding that Bartolucci's relationship with Premier Kathleen Wynne was "also not that great."

"As you know Gerry had backed out because of that and now he's back into play."

Two weeks after that Lougheed had that fateful conversation with Olivier, about stepping aside for Thibeault in exchange for some sort of government or party job that led to the prominent Sudbury businessman being charged with bribery.

Former Sudbury Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci. (CBC)

The other big reveal on the first day of the bribery trial, was more detail on exactly what police investigators allege about Sorbara bribing Thibeault to run for the Liberals.

Crown prosecutor David McKercher said Thibeault had three conditions for running in the byelection: the full support of the party, some money during the campaign to make up for the loss for his MP salary and paid jobs for two of his staffers.

Darrell Marsh and Brian Band both worked with Thibeault as an NDP MP, then moved over to the Liberal byelection campaign team and until recently worked in the MPP's Sudbury constituency office. 

"He wanted his own people who he trusted and knew the Sudbury riding," McKercher told the court.

Darrell Marsh worked in Glenn Thibeault's office when he was an NDP MP and then moved with the now energy minister to the Ontario Liberals in 2014. (L'arche Sudbury )
Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault with his former staffer Brian Band. (Twitter)

The court also got a glimpse of what the defence will argue during this trial, when both Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy and Sorbara lawyer Brian Greenspan took the unusual step of commenting on the crown's opening argument.

Lacy made it clear that Olivier was never the Liberal candidate in the byelection, which means any negotiations were an internal party matter and not covered by the Election Act. 

So, in short, Lacy argues the charges should never have been laid.

"Mr. Olivier's wishful thinking doesn't transform him into the candidate," Lacy told the court.

"All of which may cause you to wonder why we are here, but that's why we have trials."

Brian Greenspan (right) is the lawyer for Pat Sorbara and Michael Lacy is representing Gerry Lougheed Jr. (Yvno Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Who's who in the byelection bribery trial

The accused: former Liberal Party CEO Pat Sorbara, prominent Sudbury businessman and Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed Jr.

Judge: Justice Howard Borenstein, from Toronto

Prosecutors: David McKercher, Vern Brewer and Rick Visca

Defence lawyers: Michael Lacy for Lougheed, Brian Greenspan for Sorbara

Witnesses to be called by the crown (in anticipated order)

  • Andrew Olivier: 2014 Ontario Liberal candidate, who accused the party of bribing him to stand aside in the 2015 byelection for star candidate and now Sudbury MPP and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.
  • Aaron St. Pierre, Olivier's campaign manager
  • Rick Bartolucci, former Sudbury MPP and cabinet minister
  • Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
  • William Nurmi, then president of the Sudbury provincial Liberal riding association
  • Simon Tunstall, then chief executive officer of the Ontario Liberal party
  • Dominic Giroux, then president of Laurentian University, incoming president of Health Sciences North
  • Andre Bisson, then vice-president of Sudbury provincial Liberal riding association
  • Darrell Marsh, worked in Thibeault's NDP MP constituency office, then moved to Liberals with him
  • Brian Band, worked in Thibeault's NDP MP constituency office, then moved to Liberals with him
  • Marianne Matichuk, former Greater Sudbury mayor, who was interested in running for Ontario Liberals
  • Vince Borg, past president of the Ontario Liberal Party
  • Kim Donaldson, nomination commissioner for Ontario Liberal Party
  • Azam Ishmael, executive director Ontario Liberal Party
  • Neil Downs, director of the Public Appointments Secretariat at Government of Ontario
  • Shelley Potter, deputy chief of staff to Premier of Ontario
  • Glenn Thibeault, former NDP MP for Sudbury, now Sudbury Liberal MPP and Energy Minister