Opposition jumps on Glenn Thibeault's emotional response to bribery scandal
Opposition parties have called on Thibeault to resign
Emotions ran high at the Ontario legislature Wednesday as a Liberal bribery scandal boiled over from the political arena into the personal, with an accusation of "crocodile tears" and moral outrage flying across the aisle.
The saga that began more than 100 weeks ago — with a would-be byelection candidate in Sudbury, Ont., alleging the Liberals offered him a job or appointment to step aside for their preferred candidate — flared up again this week as a prosecutor's comments got the province's energy minister more deeply entangled.
Glenn Thibeault, who was then a New Democrat MP and the preferred candidate in the byelection, allegedly "sought certain benefits" as part of his conditions to run for the provincial Liberals, Crown attorney Vern Brewer said outside court on Monday.
One of two Liberals charged under the Elections Act in the case faces a count in relation to allegedly promising to get Thibeault "an office or employment" to induce him to become a candidate, but Brewer's comments were the first time officials have alleged involvement by Thibeault.
Thibeault not accused of 'being a bad man'
He choked up Tuesday after a question period dominated by opposition calls for his resignation, 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, on the verge of tears.
Progressive Conservative deputy leader Steve Clark threw the comment back at Thibeault in question period Wednesday and called for his resignation.
"Nobody in the opposition has ever accused the minister of energy of being a bad man," Clark said. "In fact, we have encouraged the minister to show that he's an honourable man and to do the right thing. A few crocodile tears to elicit sympathy doesn't change that fact."
The Liberals howled in outrage, loudly banging their desks in protest.
"You got kids, pal?" Finance Minister Charles Sousa shouted.
"Bring family into it, shame on you," said Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, who usually doesn't participate in some of the more conspicuous question period theatrics, banged her desk and glared at Clark.
"I cannot express the depth of my disappointment at a member of this house...mocking another member, a man who was defending his family," she said.
'Do the honourable thing,' Clark says
Clark said he didn't regret his "crocodile tears" slam, though he wouldn't repeat it outside the legislature.
"He's the one who brought up his kids," he said. "I think if he wants to show Ontarians and his family that he'll do the honourable thing he should step aside until the investigation and the trial was complete."
Thibeault's lawyer has said the prosecutor's comment earlier this week sullied Thibeault's reputation and the politician is considering his legal options.
The Election Act makes it an offence to offer a bribe, but not necessarily to ask for one.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that should be examined more closely.
"It's surprising that that's part of the legislation here," she said.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said recommendations of changes needed to the Election Act tend to come from the chief electoral officer. Elections Ontario said to date, Greg Essensa "has not made any specific recommendations" about the bribery section of the act.
One of the two Liberals facing charges is 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.
Sorbara has said she believes the charges against her will not succeed.