In Depth

Sudbury byelection trial: text messages tell story of political friends, foes

The Sudbury byelection bribery trial wrapped for the week with nearly two full days of testimony from the man who brought this scandal to light: former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier.

Former Liberal CEO and prominent Sudbury businessman Gerry Lougheed charged with bribery

Former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier leaves Sudbury court after his first day of testimony in the byelection bribery trial. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

After nearly two days of talking about Liberal Party constitutional rules and who was at what meeting three years ago, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan pinpointed the specific allegations of bribery on Friday.

The lawyer for former top Liberal Pat Sorbara questioned former candidate Andrew Olivier about his allegation that Sorbara offered him a government or party job three years ago to make way for Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault to defect from the NDP.

"The only thing Ms. Sorbara is suggesting to you is... there's a future in the party for you," Greenspan suggested.

Olivier agreed.

That conversation, which Olivier released online three years ago, happened on Dec. 12, 2014 and later that day, Olivier texted Sorbara.

"Hi Pat, had a good chat with Glenn. Will let you know first thing Monday morning," he wrote.

But on that Monday, Olivier instead gave a press conference announcing he was being pushed aside for a star candidate.

Sorbara then texted him.

"Whatever you have decided I hope you would show the premier the same courtesy she has shown you," she wrote.

Olivier never replied to that text.

Brian Greenspan is the lawyer for former Liberal Party CEO Pat Sorbara. (CBC)

Court heard that Olivier and Thibeault met the day the sitting NDP MP was named as the Liberal candidate and two days after Olivier criticised the party for skipping around the "democratic process."

Thibeault texted Olivier and asked if they could meet "before cluster fuck takes over the news" and offered to bring Tim Hortons coffee for both of them.

They also exchanged several text messages in the coming days.

Olivier: "I'll be holding off on the he said she said bs. Enough poison in the media as it is."

Thibeault: " I want to make sure that we're good. Once politics is done, friends are way more important."

Olivier said the interactions with Thibeault were "a friend reaching out to a friend" 

Lacy asked if the purpose of the meeting was to see if Olivier "might still be involved in the campaign."

"More so to find out how all this came about," Olivier replied.

"You wanted to make sure you weren't being sandbagged by the party?" asked Lacy.

"I think that was Glenn's intention to tell me that," Olivier said.

Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault is seen celebrating his byelection win on Feb. 5, 2015, in Sudbury. (Thomas Duncan/Canadian Press)

The court also heard how Andre Bisson, then the vice-president of the local Liberal riding association, had written a memo, on behalf other prominent Sudbury party members, requesting that Olivier be appointed as the byelection candidate.

Lacy suggested this counters Olivier's repeatedly stated belief in a "democatic" open nomination process, but Olivier said he wasn't aware of Bisson's efforts.

"I knew he was lobbying for me to be the candidate, but for me to be appointed, I can't be sure," Olivier testified.

Premier Kathleen Wynne in Sudbury with Andrew Olivier when he was the Liberal candidate during the 2014 provincial election. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Timeline: Andrew Olivier

  • Nov. 20, 2014: Sudbury New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino resigns just over five months after winning the seat, with Liberal candidate Olivier coming a close second.
  • Nov. 23: Olivier speaks with Liberal Party CEO Pat Sorbara about the upcoming byelection campaign and ongoing in-fighting among Sudbury Liberals. 
  • Nov. 26: Sudbury riding association meets to discuss how to choose a candidate for byelection. Olivier is present, as is Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed.
  • Dec. 11: Lougheed meets with Olivier to tell him Glenn Thibeault is defecting to be the Liberal candidate. He speaks with Premier Kathleen Wynne on the phone about other roles he might play in the party or government,
  • Dec. 12: Olivier speaks with Sorbara by phone about jobs or appointments the premier could make available to him.
  • Dec. 13: Olivier meets with Glenn Thibeault
  • Dec. 15: Olivier posts on Facebook and holds press conference to announce that he is being pushed aside by the party for a star candidate
  • Dec. 16: Thibeault is announced as the appointed Liberal candidate for the Sudbury byelection.
  • Dec. 16-18: Thibeault and Olivier exchange a series of text messages
  • Dec. 20: Olivier is interviewing by Ontario Provincial Police investigators
  • Jan. 5, 2015: Olivier announces he will run as an indepedent candidate in the Sudbury byelection
  • Jan. 15, 2015: Olivier releases the taped conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara.
Gerry Lougheed Jr. faces a phalanx of reporters in Sudbury on his way to court. (Erik White/CBC)

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