Crown alleges Thibeault 'sought certain benefits' to defect to Ontario Liberals

The prosecutor handling the Sudbury byelection bribery case shed a little more light on the allegations following the first court appearance for the charges on Monday.

Case will be back in court Dec. 14

Vern Brewer is a federal crown prosecutor. (Erik White/CBC )

The prosecutor handling the Sudbury byelection bribery case shed a little more light on the allegations following the first court appearance for the charges on Monday.

Prominent Sudbury businessman Gerry Lougheed and former top Liberal party official Pat Sorbara are both charged with trying to bribe former Sudbury candidate Andrew Olivier to not run in last year's byelection, making way for federal New Democrat Glenn Thibeault to defect to the Ontario Liberals.

On Oct. 3, Patricia Sorbara took a leave of absence from her deputy chief of staff job to become the Ontario Liberal Party's CEO and 2018 campaign director. A month later she was charged with two bribery counts under the Election Act. Sorbara has resigned from her Liberal party posts. (Radio Canada)

Sorbara faces a second charge of bribery for allegedly offering Thibeault something to join her party.

Federal crown prosecutor Vern Brewer says Thibeault himself is not charged, because it is only illegal to offer a bribe, not accept one.

"Our allegation is that Mr. Thibeault sought certain benefits, offers, jobs or employment as part of his condition to run as an MPP," Brewer told reporters in the lobby of Tom Davies Square, where provincial offences court is held.

"The section makes it an offence to offer, not necessarily to receive."

Thibeault, now the MPP and Energy Minister, has denied that he was offered or accepted anything in order to run for the Liberals in Sudbury.

Thibeault's lawyer slammed Brewer's comment as "factually incorrect" and "supremely frustrating."

"The prosecutor chose to make his remarks outside of court to reporters instead of respecting the sub judice rule, which recognizes the impropriety of out-of-court comment on a prosecution which is before the courts," Ian Smith wrote in a statement.

"The Crown has chosen to sully Mr. Thibeault's reputation without ever naming him as the target of its investigations, without ever charging him, and, most importantly, knowing that he will have no trial where he could mount a proper defence."

Thibeault will "consider all of his legal options" over the remarks that are "disgraceful and ill-considered" and will likely cause him "serious reputational damage," Smith wrote.

Ontario's opposition parties called for Thibeault to step aside after it was revealed that one of Sorbara's charges related to an offer allegedly made to him. Thibeault has refused, since he isn't under investigation and faces no charges.

Prominent Sudbury businessman Gerry Lougheed is charged with bribery under the Election Act. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Case to be heard by judge

The case will resume in court on Dec. 14, when it will be heard at the Elm Street courthouse and before a judge, at the request of both sides. But it is still a provincial offences case, not a criminal matter.

Lougheed had been facing criminal charges for his conversation with Olivier about Thibeault's defection. But the counts of counseling an offence not committed and influencing appointments were stayed in April.

​"Upon further review of all the evidence and speaking with the officers, we've come to the conclusion it is a more appropriate prosecution under the Election Act," said Brewer, adding that there are no plans to reinstate the criminal charges at this time.

Brewer and the federal crown's office are handling this case instead of the provincial crown attorney, because of potential conflicts of interest with a case involving the Ontario government.

Lougheed will be represented by Toronto lawyer Michael Lacy, who also represented him in the criminal case, while Sorbara will be represented by Brian Greenspan.

with files from Canadian Press.


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