Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault tearfully refused to resign after a federal prosecutor accused him of soliciting “benefits” in exchange for running in last year’s Sudbury by-election.
Mr. Thibeault denied Tuesday that he asked for or accepted any bribes as part of his decision to quit federal Parliament and defect from the NDP to seek a Liberal seat provincially. Speaking with reporters at Queen’s Park, he cried as he described the toll the allegations were taking.
“The comments yesterday by the Crown prosecutor were pretty disappointing and hurtful to me and my family,” Mr. Thibeault said, his voice breaking. “If anyone’s had to explain to a nine-year-old why you’re not a bad man, it’s not an easy conversation. But I will not be resigning.”
Patricia Sorbara, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former deputy chief of staff, was charged under the province’s Election Act with bribing Mr. Thibeault to run.
After Ms. Sorbara’s first court date Monday, Crown attorney Vern Brewer told reporters Mr. Thibeault was not charged in the case because the Election Act only prohibits offering bribes, but not receiving them. Mr. Brewer alleged Mr. Thibeault “sought certain benefits, offers or job or employment as part of his conditions to run as MPP.” Mr. Brewer did not say what the alleged “benefits” were exactly.
Mr. Brewer did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Mr. Thibeault said he never asked for or received any guarantee he would get a cabinet post in exchange for running. He also said he was never promised another job if he failed to win.
Asked whether he requested anything at all as a condition of becoming a candidate, Mr. Thibeault said: “Nothing that I can see as anything that would be seen as a bribe. I was talking about making sure that I was the candidate, and that’s the only conversation that I can think of.”
The Liberals paid Mr. Thibeault $3,500 – listed as “income replacement” on Elections Ontario filings – during the by-election. Mr. Thibeault said he needed the money because he did not receive severance from the federal government when he left the House of Commons. He said he did not know whether that payment was the reason for Mr. Brewer’s comment.
“I claimed that on my taxes … everything was above board,” he said. “You’ll have to ask Mr. Brewer on that. I don’t know. I can’t make any assumptions on what they’re thinking.”
Mr. Thibeault said he has had no conversations with Ms. Wynne about resigning, and brushed aside any suggestion his presence in cabinet was a distraction to the government.
“The only distraction right now is the opposition again using this as an opportunity, as a character assassination of my reputation,” he said, adding later: “You know what? We haven’t talked about resignation yet because that’s never been something that’s come up.”
Mr. Thibeault faced an onslaught from the opposition parties in the daily Question Period.
“This is startling news. It raises serious ethical questions, and the public, rightfully, is questioning whether they can trust the minister,” Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown thundered. “Will the government do the right thing and force him to resign?”
Added NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh: “What benefit, if any, was the Minister of Energy offered?”
Deputy Premier Deb Matthews tried to parry the blows by grilling the opposition parties about instances in which they had given party jobs to former MPPs and candidates.
At one point, the debate degenerated into a cacophony of jeers and heckles. “There’s blood in the water!” shouted PC MPP Bob Bailey. “Hypocrites!” cried Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid. “Take it outside! I’ll join you,” fired back Tory MPP John Yakabuski.
Ms. Sorbara, along with Sudbury Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed, faces a further bribery charge for allegedly offering government jobs to former candidate Andrew Olivier in exchange for dropping his bid for the Liberal nomination. The Liberals wanted Mr. Olivier out of the way so Mr. Thibeault could take the nomination unopposed.
Mr. Olivier, who is quadriplegic and records conversations instead of taking notes, did not accept the job offers. Instead, he publicly denounced the Liberals and released the recordings of his conversations with Ms. Sorbara and Mr. Lougheed.
Mr. Thibeault won the Feb. 5, 2015, by-election, served on the Liberal backbench for 16 months and was promoted to cabinet in June.Report Typo/Error