Premier Kathleen Wynne's government is refusing to pull a Liberal operative at the centre of an alleged bribery scandal off the Sudbury police board, as the board itself calls in a provincial watchdog to sort out what to do.
The Greater Sudbury Police Services Board on Thursday said it had asked the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for advice on dealing with Gerry Lougheed, the board chair.
Mr. Lougheed, a Sudbury businessman and party fundraiser, is under police investigation for allegedly offering a government job to a former Liberal candidate to get him to drop out of a recent by-election. Elections Ontario ruled earlier this month that Mr. Lougheed and Patricia Sorbara, Ms. Wynne's deputy chief of staff, appear to have broken provincial election law.
The province appointed Mr. Lougheed to the board in 2011.
In a statement, the board said it had consulted with lawyers and decided to "correspond" with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission about Mr. Lougheed: "This action is being undertaken with the full support and cooperation of the chair."
The commission, which did not respond to a request for comment, has the power to remove or suspend misbehaving board members.
Progressive Conservative House Leader Steve Clark called on Ms. Wynne to rescind Mr. Lougheed's appointment.
"The people of Sudbury, the men and women of the Sudbury police force and the members of the police services board need your leadership," he said in the legislature. "Please, heed what the police services board is expressing in their concern."
But Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi said the government will do nothing of the sort: "If there is a breach, if there is suspicion of a breach around that code of conduct, the responsibility to make a determination rests with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission."
In recordings of conversations between Mr. Lougheed and the candidate, Andrew Olivier, Mr. Lougheed urged Mr. Olivier to quit the race and said the Liberals wanted to present him "options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever."
"I hate to sound kind of Machiavellian about it, but … at the end of the day, if you take the high road on this – what is your reward?" Mr. Lougheed told Mr. Olivier.
While the Tories spent all of Question Period grilling the government on Sudbury, the Liberals tried to skewer them over controversial comments on sexual education and evolution that some Tory MPPs made this week.
Every member of the Liberal caucus had a copy of National Geographic's March issue, whose cover story is titled "The War on Science," at their desks.
" 'Evolution Never Happened' is a cover story here. 'Climate Change Does Not Exist.' This is a wonderful synopsis of the PC Party of Ontario, and I want to say congratulations," Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said in the legislature. When she brandished her copy of the magazine, the Sergeant-at-Arms confiscated it.
Meanwhile, PC MPP Monte McNaughton doubled down on his opposition to sex ed. Earlier this week, he was accused by the Liberals of homophobia for saying "it's not the Premier of Ontario's job, especially Kathleen Wynne" to decide what children learn in sex-ed; Ms. Wynne is openly gay.
He said Thursday his "especially Kathleen Wynne" remark referred to the fact that the government is at the centre of a police investigation.
"Everything she touches turns to sour grapes," he said. "I stand by my comments."