The Ontario Liberals should have run a “save the furniture” campaign during the 2018 provincial election instead of trying to be re-elected after 15 years in office, a former top political operative for Kathleen Wynne writes in a new book.
Pat Sorbara, who was Ms. Wynne’s deputy chief of staff and a Liberal campaign director, was not part of the 2018 election team. Ms. Sorbara said the party approached the vote in June, 2018, as though it had a chance to win instead of fighting “for as many seats as we could hold onto.”
The Progressive Conservatives won a majority, and the Ontario Liberals just seven seats, one shy of official party status. Ms. Wynne won her riding, but resigned as Liberal leader and remains at Queen’s Park. Ms. Wynne told The Globe and Mail she hasn’t read the book and declined to comment.
“We had no business running a ground game based on a belief we could win government again,” Ms. Sorbara writes. “The reality was it was time to save the furniture.”
In Let 'em Howl: Lessons from a Life in Backroom Politics, Ms. Sorbara describes a power struggle that began when she returned to her job at Queen’s Park after her 2017 acquittal on bribery charges related to a Sudbury by-election. (Ms. Sorbara, 63, says the charges were “trumped up” and the Ontario Provincial Police’s decision to lay them was political.)
She says she had expected to play a key role in the campaign, but was forced out after several staff threatened to resign and Wynne aide Chad Walsh told the premier it was because Ms. Sorbara operated “in an environment of harassment and fear.”
“I was the victim of friendly fire, an internal mob hit. Cold and calculated, planned out and executed by a few who placed their own needs over that of the campaign and the party," Ms. Sorbara writes.
She reserves her harshest words for Andrew Bevan, Ms. Wynne’s former chief of staff and principal secretary, whom she describes as having a “cabal” around him and wanting to be “the only voice in the premier’s head.”
Mr. Bevan said he has not read the book.
“I can’t comment directly on Ms. Sorbara’s book as I haven’t read it," he told The Globe. "What I can confirm is her departure from the Premier’s Office and campaign team was directly related to her treatment of staff, volunteers, and party members.”
Mr. Walsh was among those who resigned, but returned after Ms. Sorbara left. "I could no longer work with an individual who treated staff and volunteers so poorly,” he told The Globe, adding that he had not read the book.
Asked about the comments, Ms. Sorbara, who has four decades of experience in politics, said she is blunt, direct and disciplined. “That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t disappointed in myself from time to time, or that I knew I could have approached it differently,” she said.
She said she believed deeply in what Ms. Wynne tried to do for social justice and progressive causes and hopes her book inspires a new generation of women to enter politics.
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