Premier Kathleen Wynne’s lead fundraiser has stepped down amid a reorganization of the Ontario Liberal Party as it begins a ramp-up to the 2018 election.
Bobby Walman, who had been the head of the Liberals’ campaign-finance system for eight years, confirmed Monday that he had departed over the summer.
In an e-mail, he said he had “voluntarily resigned” to return to running a political consulting company.
“My decision to move on was discussed with the Premier and leaders of the Ontario Liberal Party around the end of last year,” he wrote. “I agreed to stay until early summer 2016 to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.”
His departure comes as the Liberals look to overhaul their fundraising operation to comply with campaign finance reforms sparked by a Globe and Mail investigation.
Starting next year, the Liberals plan to ban corporate and union donations, bring in lower contribution caps and prevent provincial politicians from attending fundraising events. Ms. Wynne ordered the new rules after The Globe revealed that hundreds of the province’s corporate leaders were paying up to $10,000 for private face-time with the Premier and members of her cabinet.
Mr. Walman kept a low profile as he expanded the Liberals’ fundraising efforts. Even Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake had difficulty getting Mr. Walman to speak with him when he investigated a controversial Liberal fundraiser earlier this year: Mr. Wake had to issue a summons to compel Mr. Walman’s co-operation after Mr. Walman ignored Mr. Wake’s requests for a meeting.
In a memo to party members Monday, Ms. Wynne and party president Vince Borg announced that Zak Bailey, a veteran of several health-care charities, has taken over as chief fundraiser. The previously semi-independent Ontario Liberal Fund has been merged into the party itself, meaning Mr. Bailey will report directly to Patricia Sorbara, who is leaving her post as Ms. Wynne’s deputy chief of staff next month to become CEO of the party.
Ms. Sorbara also serves as campaign manager, a role she has filled since before the 2014 election. She will focus on organizational matters – including the party’s voter identification database and get-out-the-vote apparatus. One of Ms. Wynne’s most trusted advisers, Ms. Sorbara became a controversial figure when a former Liberal candidate accused her of offering him a government job in exchange for dropping out of a nomination contest ahead of last year’s Sudbury by-election.
David Herle, the Liberals’ pollster, will again serve as chief campaign strategist with the title of managing campaign co-chair. As he did for the 2014 election, Mr. Herle will be in charge of the campaign’s overall direction, including advertising. One source said Mr. Herle has been sitting in on daily meetings and phone calls with the Premier’s top staff in recent months.
Deputy Premier Deb Matthews and Tim Murphy, a former chief of staff to former prime minister Paul Martin, will also serve as co-chairs.
Bay Street lawyer Alexis Levine will oversee the process of nominating candidates, the memo said. Meanwhile, political consultant Michael Keegan is undertaking a reorganization of the party to handle the redistribution of ridings ahead of the election, as the legislature grows from 107 members to 122.Report Typo/Error