A portrait of a dysfunctional Liberal Party emerged in court Thursday in Sudbury, the first day of the bribery trial involving former Liberal campaign director Pat Sorbara and fundraiser Gerry Lougheed Jr.
Both are accused of attempting to induce former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier to withdraw from the 2015 byelection in favour of Glenn Thibeault, now the energy minister. Olivier later released recordings of conversations he had with both.
On the first day of the trial Thursday, Michael Lacy, Lougheed's lawyer, revealed the existence of yet another recording, this one from Nov. 23, 2014, between Sorbara and Olivier.
Listen to the conversation here:
They can be heard sounding delighted and surprised that NDP MPP Joe Cimino had quit just months after the June 2014 election, and it was obvious that Olivier wanted to run in the byelection.
The recording discussed issues with the June election. Olivier indicates he didn't receive much support from the party. In fact, he said he felt former MPP Rick Bartolucci was almost “sabatoging” him.
Sorbara responds that she and Premier Kathleen Wynne were under a different impression, that Bartolucci told them he had the support and assistance he needed.
Not true, Olivier responds, adding that Bartolucci still controlled the riding association, which wasn't helping either.
“We'll never win this thing if we don't get together,” Olivier tells Sorbara.
Sorbara mentions the strained relationship between Wynne and Bartolucci, and says Bartolucci delivered an ultimatum on Lougheed: if he's involved with the party, Bartolucci would not be.
“Gerry and I have a great relationship,” Olivier says at one point.
The pair also discuss the opportunity that Cimino's shocking resignation has presented.
“It's so fast,” Sorbara says.
“The NDP here are completely unorganized,” Oliver says, adding the party should act quickly to take advantage.
“When they get organized, they are a tough group,” he says.
Sorbara agrees, adding that it “will be important to (NDP Leader Andrea) Horwath to hold the seat.”
Sorbara at one point tells Olivier, “you are the past candidate, but you're not the current candidate yet.”
“I'm in your hands, Pat,” Olivier responds. “Whatever direction you guys give me is what I'll do.”
“It's a hell of an unexpected opportunity,” Sorbara says.
“It's a golden egg, for sure,” Olivier responds.
The conversation took place before it emerged that Glenn Thibeault, then NDP MP for Sudbury, let it be known he was interested in running for the Liberals in the byelection.
It also emerged Thursday that part of the Crown's case is the fact Thibeault arranged for two of his paid staffers – Brian Band and Darrell Marsh – to receive paid Liberal jobs with him if he became the candidate.
“Thibeault wanted his own people,” said Crown attorney Vern Brewer.
He was concerned what would happen to them if he switched parties and left them behind.
Thibeault and Sorbara also met to “go over the commitments that were made” as part of his agreement to make the switch.
The trial continues this afternoon.