Gerry Lougheed Jr., Ontario Liberal fundraiser, charged in Sudbury byelection scandal
Lougheed to 'vigorously' defend 2 charges, including unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments
Ontario Provincial Police have laid criminal charges against provincial Liberal Party fundraiser Gerry Lougheed Jr. in relation to the Sudbury byelection in February.
Police say Lougheed has been charged with these Criminal Code offences:
- One count of counselling an offence not committed.
- One count of unlawfully influencing or negotiating appointments.
Lougheed released a statement Thursday morning, saying he would be "vigorously defending these charges in the courts."
"I have no further comments at this time as this matter is now before the courts," he said.
The investigation was launched after a former Liberal candidate said he was offered a job or an appointment to step aside in the Feb. 5 byelection for Premier Kathleen Wynne's preferred candidate, former New Democrat Glenn Thibeault.
Wynne has always maintained the Liberals were just trying to keep former candidate Andrew Olivier in the party fold, and there was no need to offer him a job or appointment to step aside because he was not going to be the candidate.
Thibeault won the byelection for the Liberals, taking back the Sudbury riding they had lost to the New Democrats in the 2014 general election.
The OPP said in a statement "this has been a very uncommon investigation," and said they will provide no further comment.
Greater Sudbury Police confirm that Lougheed has stepped aside as chair of the Sudbury Police Services Board.
Huntington University also confirmed that Lougheed has stepped aside as chancellor of the school — just hours before he was to be formally installed in the ceremonial office.
One of the charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
According to OPP, Lougheed is due to appear in court on Nov. 18.
'Will the premier step aside?'
At Queen's Park today, opposition parties maintained Lougheed was acting on orders from Premier Kathleen Wynne.
"The premier has disgraced her office," said PC leader Patrick Brown. "Will the premier step aside?"
According to NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson, "Everybody has heard the tapes ... Mr. Lougheed was very clear — he was there on behalf of the Premier of Ontario."
Wynne was not in the Legislature to answer to the opposition herself, but Deputy Premier Deb Matthews defended her, saying "The premier has cooperated fully with the police investigation."
Wynne's deputy chief of staff Pat Sorbara was also under investigation, but Matthews said the OPP have told Sorbara's lawyer she will not be charged.
Olivier, Thibeault respond
Spurned former Sudbury Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier released a statement to the press on Thursday afternoon.
"Although I did not initiate this investigation, I will cooperate as I have from the outset with the authorities in any way I can," he wrote.
"The legal advice I have received and which I have accepted is to not make any further statements regarding these events while the matter is before the courts."
At Queen's Park, Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault faced a barrage of questions from reporters about the charges — and about Lougheed's support of him.
A high-profile defection from the federal NDP to the Ontario Liberals in Dec. 2014 left some in the Sudbury riding feeling like they'd "been slapped in the face". When asked whether Lougheed's fundraising efforts or political clout helped to smooth the way to his victory in the riding, Thibeault said Lougheed was "just [as important as] any volunteer".
"I think most of the heavy-lifting was done by myself," he said.
And when asked by a reporter whether he thinks the "commotion" has been worth it to clinch one seat:
"You know what? Politics is politics. Elections are elections," he continued. "For me, representing the people of Sudbury is always worth it. Hindsight is 20-20."
With files from The Canadian Press