Kathleen Wynne to meet with OPP over byelection corruption allegations
'I am absolutely convinced that there was no breach,' deputy premier Deb Matthews says
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her deputy chief of staff will meet with police investigators, the premier's office said Monday, as the Liberals denied allegations they broke the law in the lead-up to a recent byelection.
"We've been clear that the authorities have our full co-operation, and we are confident that after Premier Wynne and Pat Sorbara meet with the investigators, they will reach the same conclusion," Wynne's spokeswoman, Zita Astravas, said Monday in an email.
The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating allegations that Liberal officials offered their Sudbury, Ont., candidate from the June election a job or appointment late last year in exchange for not running in last Thursday's byelection.
Wynne appointed former NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who won the byelection, instead of holding a nomination.
The spurned candidate, Andrew Olivier, is quadriplegic and records many conversations because he can't take notes, so he has put the audio of his talks with two Liberals — including Pat Sorbara, the premier's deputy chief of staff — online, saying they back up his claims.
'No breach,' deputy premier says
Earlier Monday, deputy premier Deb Matthews said she is "absolutely convinced" the Liberals did nothing criminal in behind-the-scenes talks ahead of the byelection.
Matthews admitted she hasn't listened to Olivier's audio recordings, but said she is confident the allegations are false.
"I am absolutely convinced that there was no breach," she said. "I have not listened to the tapes. But I've seen enough."
Progressive Conservative house leader Steve Clark said the Liberals "gave up their integrity" to win the Sudbury seat.
"Anybody who listens to those tapes hears the discussion and the offer," he said.
Media reports said provincial police believe two Liberals broke the law, according to a police document sworn before a judge to get a production order for evidence. The police allegations have not been tested in court, and no charges have been laid.
The premier will not be asking Sorbara to leave her post, Astravas has said. Wynne has maintained no specific offer was made to Olivier, saying they were trying to keep him active in the party after Thibeault's appointment was already decided.
NDP house leader Gilles Bisson said that's a "Liberal spin."
"It's pretty clear when you listen to the tape and you read the transcript ... (Sorbara) is trying to sound out what it is (Olivier) would be interested in," Bisson said. "She's very categorical in what she's doing."
Elections Ontario is also investigating the Liberals' alleged actions, which the opposition parties say amount to bribery.
Matthews, also the president of the treasury board, said the OPP investigation in no way affects bargaining with the force, which began this month.
It is one of many major public-sector unions currently in bargaining as Ontario seeks "net zero" wage increases. Matthews said in a speech Monday that offsetting any wage increases will be one of the ways Ontario plans to eliminate its $12.5-billion deficit by 2017-18.
Matthews also spoke of "maximizing government assets" and a line-by-line review of program spending, though she vowed there will be no "across the board cuts."
She would not say if public sector job cuts are looming.