Sudbury

Ontario energy minister says he never asked for a bribe

A former MP who is now Ontario's energy minister was emotional as he denied allegations Tuesday that he asked for a bribe in exchange for running in a byelection for the provincial Liberals.

Sudbury MPP considering legal options after prosecutor's comments

Sudbury Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault speaks at the Ontario Legislature on Oct. 19. Opposition parties have been calling on Thibeault to resign after allegations of bribery came forth following a Sudbury byelection. (Pierre-Olivier Bernatchez/CBC)

A former MP who is now Ontario's energy minister was emotional as he denied allegations Tuesday that he asked for a bribe in exchange for running in a byelection for the provincial Liberals.

The Crown lawyer prosecuting two Ontario Liberals on Election Act bribery charges said Monday that Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault "sought certain benefits, offers or job or employment as part of his conditions to run as (an) MPP."

Thibeault said Tuesday he has no idea what that allegation is based on, because he never asked for "anything that would be seen as a bribe."

Playing by the rules?

Nipissing Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli joined the chorus of politicians asking Thibeault to resign from his post during today's session of question period at Queen's Park.

Fedeli said it would be the right thing to do during the ongoing legal investigation related to the 2015 Sudbury byelection. Fedeli said northerners work hard and play by the rules — and it's the example they expect from their elected officials.

"However, it's clear the energy minister forgot his northern roots," he said.

"Now the minister of energy is distracted by legal problems, as opposed to working to address the hydro crisis his government created. He's failing Ontario families and businesses. And he's failing the people of Sudbury and the people of the north."

Thibeault choked up during a scrum after question period, saying the scandal is hard on his family.

"If anyone's ever had to explain to a nine-year-old why you're not a bad man, it's not an easy conversation," Thibeault said. "But I will not be resigning."

Thibeault's lawyer has said prosecutor Vern Brewer's comments sullied Thibeault's reputation and the politician is considering his legal options.

Premier hasn't asked for resignation

The charges against the two provincial Liberals, including Premier Kathleen Wynne's former deputy chief of staff, stem from allegations they offered a would-be candidate a job or appointment to get him to step aside in a 2015 byelection in Sudbury, Ont., to make room for Thibeault, who was the premier's preferred candidate.

Thibeault was then the New Democrat MP for Sudbury, and he ultimately won the byelection for the provincial Liberals, then was promoted to energy minister earlier this year.

He said he never asked to be in cabinet, nor did he ask for the promise of a job if he lost the byelection.

"The comments that the premier and I had was, 'I look forward to running in an election, winning the election becoming the MPP and then if the premier felt I had the skill set to go into cabinet then that would be great, but I never sought anything other than to be the candidate to run in the election."

The premier has not asked for his resignation, Thibeault said. He is not charged, nor is he under investigation, the Liberals note. The Election Act makes it an offence to offer a bribe, but not necessarily to ask for one.

Thibeault is named in one of the charges against Pat Sorbara, who took a leave of absence from her job as Wynne's deputy chief of staff to become the Ontario Liberals' CEO and 2018 campaign director — posts she resigned from when the charges were laid. She is alleged to have promised to get Thibeault "an office or employment" to induce him to become a candidate.

Sorbara has said she believes the charges against her will not succeed and she is "shocked" by any suggestion she has done something wrong.

with files from CBC News

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