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Liberals may have broken bribery rules in Sudbury byelection run-up: Elections Ontario

The Ontario Liberals appear to have broken the rules of the Election Act in the leadup to the recent Sudbury byelection, the chief of Elections Ontario wrote in a letter released on Thursday.

Chief electoral officer notes 'apparent contraventions,' but Liberals refute allegations

Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault is seen celebrating his byelection win on Feb. 5, 2015, in Sudbury. (Thomas Duncan/Canadian Press)

The Ontario Liberals appear to have broken the rules of the Election Act in the leadup to the recent Sudbury byelection, the chief of Elections Ontario wrote in a letter released on Thursday.

Greg Essensa, the chief electoral officer of Ontario, says there were "apparent contraventions" to the act in the Liberals offering a former candidate incentives to not run in the election.

Essensa said since Elections Ontario has no mandate to conduct prosecutions, he has referred the matter to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

"Having reviewed the evidence and findings from this regulatory investigation, I am of the opinion that the actions of Gerry Lougheed Jr. and Patricia Sorbara amount to apparent contraventions of subsection 96.1(e) of the Election Act," wrote Essensa. "Consequently, I have reported this matter to the attorney general of Ontario."

He said these are "unprecedented circumstances" as no chief electoral officer has ever conducted an investigation into bribery allegations or reported an apparent contravention of the Election Act before.

The report appears to clear Premier Kathleen Wynne and newly elected Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault amid uproar at Queen's Park over why a candidate in the Sudbury race stepped aside.

Andrew Olivier has alleged that a job or appointment was offered to him in exchange for not seeking the Liberal nomination. He had previously run for the Liberals and intended to run again in the Feb. 5 byelection.

Olivier released recordings of the discussion he had with Lougheed  and Sobara, as he records all conversations due to a disability. He publicly released those, but said he did not make a complaint to Elections Ontario.

"Don't forget that I wasn't the one who brought it forth, so I kind of got pulled into this so to speak," said Olivier. "But, at this point, seeing the news today, it just shows that the process is going along how it should be."

The allegation of wrongdoing was refuted by the premier, but is the subject of an OPP investigation.

The Ontario Liberals released a statement further refuting the allegations.

"As we have said repeatedly, any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is false," read a statement from the party. "After the decision was made that Andrew Olivier would not be the candidate, Patricia Sorbara discussed ways Olivier could remain involved."

With files from The Canadian Press

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