A former Ontario Liberal candidate says one of Premier Kathleen Wynne's top aides offered him a job or appointment in exchange for quitting a nomination race ahead of the coming Sudbury by-election.
Andrew Olivier, who hoped to make history as the province's first quadriplegic MPP, said Ms. Wynne also personally tried to talk him out of running. He said she had someone else in mind whom she preferred as a candidate, and wanted Mr. Olivier to get out of the way.
"My message is clear. I will not be bullied or bought," Mr. Olivier said in a statement Monday. "Anyone who has a disability knows a major challenge is maintaining your self-respect and dignity, which is not easy when you depend on so many people. I have worked hard … to maintain a strong sense of dignity."
Mr. Olivier said Patricia Sorbara, Ms. Wynne's deputy chief of staff and the Liberals' campaign director, made the job offer during a phone call last week. After he turned it down, Mr. Olivier said, party brass told him they would scrap the democratic nomination process and simply appoint a candidate instead.
The Progressive Conservative opposition prompty sent a letter to the Ontario Provincial Police asking that they investigate whether the alleged offer constitutes corruption. The NDP made a similar request of Elections Ontario.
Ms. Wynne said "there were no specific offers of anything" to keep Mr. Olivier out of the race.
"What we did say, what I did say and others in the team said to Andrew, is 'We hope you stay involved [in the party,]'" Ms. Wynne told reporters after an unrelated speech in Toronto Monday. She did not deny trying to persuade Mr. Olivier to stand aside because there is someone else she would rather have as the candidate.
Ms. Sorbara said she did not try to make any deal with Mr. Olivier.
"I reached out to Andrew Olivier last week and discussed ways he could remain involved. Any suggestion that anything was offered in exchange for any action is categorically false," she said in a statement.
Mr. Olivier, a mortgage agent, was the Liberal candidate for Sudbury in last June's election. He finished less than 1,000 votes behind the NDP's Joe Cimino. After Mr. Cimino unexpectedly resigned last month, Mr. Olivier decided to run again.
But last Thursday, Mr. Olivier wrote in his statement, local party organizer Gerry Lougheed asked for a meeting with him and suggested he would receive "a job or appointment" in exchange for leaving the race. Ms. Wynne also phoned to tell him she wanted a different candidate to run. Mr. Olivier did not name the other candidate Ms. Wynne had in mind.
The following day Ms. Sorbara called to repeat Mr. Lougheed's offer, Mr. Olivier wrote.
Neither Mr. Olivier nor Mr. Lougheed responded to messages seeking interviews.
Liberals have in the past admitted trying to use government jobs to solve political problems. In his recent autobiography, former finance minister Greg Sorbara wrote that he unsuccessfully dangled an appointment in front of then NDP MPP Rosario Marchese in 2012 in a bid to get him out of the legislature.
"I wanted to find out what it would take to get Marchese to quit politics, since we were only one seat shy of a majority government," Mr. Sorbara wrote. "So we regularly talked about the possibility of an appointment."