There was no suggestion of a patronage appointment of any kind when he met with former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier last week, Gerry Lougheed Jr. said Tuesday, adding he was surprised when Olivier made the allegation at a news conference Monday.
“At no time was there ever a job offer,” Lougheed said. “To be fair to me, I don't sit on the riding executive, I don't sit on the Ontario Liberal Party (executive), I don't have any authority with this government at all.”
Olivier ran for the Liberal seat in the June vote, losing by less than 1,00 votes to the NDP's Joe Cimino, who abruptly resigned in November. He withdrew his candidacy for the upcoming byelection in Sudbury after he met with Lougheed at Olivier's office Dec. 11, where he was informed another candidate was going to be appointed to run in Sudbury.
That candidate has since been identified as Glenn Thibeault, who has left the federal NDP caucus and will resign as Sudbury's member of Parliament to run for the Liberals provincially.
Olivier said Lougheed asked him to back the candidate and to make a quiet exit from the race.
“(Lougheed) mentioned that if I stepped aside, and endorsed this other person, that I should request to see what was in it for me – perhaps a job or an appointment,” Olivier said. “I informed Gerry that I have a job.”
Not true, Lougheed said. He did ask Olivier to back Thibeault, and urged him to stay with the party.
But he said he asked to meet with Olivier only after Premier Kathleen Wynne informed him Thibeault was going to be appointed to run.
“I did say to the premier, that if this is the direction, we need to talk to Andrew immediately, because I have a lot of regard for Andrew,” Lougheed said. “I think he's an outstanding young man with a great passion for the community.
“I asked him how he wanted to stay part of the team, because we respect you so much … I never had the ability to offer him a job. There was never going to be a job offer in that conversation.”
When Olivier told him he still wanted to run for the nomination, and that he had a lot of enthusiastic supporters, Lougheed said he told him he respected whatever he decided to do.
“My last lines to Andrew Oliver were that 'Andrew, you have to do what's in your heart; following your heart is the right thing to do.' And that's how I left it.”
There was a similar conversation with another candidate who was thinking about running for the Liberal nomination, Lougheed said, and that candidate withdrew voluntarily when they learned Thibeault was going to be the candidate.
“When I heard some of the things (Olivier) said yesterday, it was a bit confusing to me,” he said.
“The premier or (Liberal campaign director) Pat Sorbara never told me any of that kind of thing. It was never on the agenda and it was never mentioned.
“I knew Andrew would be disappointed, but I still believe Andrew has a bright future. If he ran federally or provincially sometime in the future, I would be a strong supporter.”
Lougheed said he had no role in the decision to appoint Thibeault, saying it was Wynne's decision, but that he was a big supporter of his candidacy, which he described as “historic.”
“You'd have to ask the premier that. I was certainly not privy (to that decision.) My whole issue was that we needed to respect and acknowledge and include Andrew in our team and our future.”
He described Thibeault as a good friend since his days with the United Way, and as someone who shares his sense of humour.
“For the last three years, every time I bumped into him, I'd say, 'Geez Glenn, we got to get you to walk across that floor and join the (Justin) Trudeau team,' ” Lougheed said. “And he'd laugh and say, 'Never going to happen, Gerry, because Jack Layton is my mentor.' We'd have this banter back and forth.
“So when the premier called me to say there was a possibility that Glenn Thibeault was going to be the candidate, you could have knocked me over with a feather.”
He was equally shocked, Lougheed said, when Olivier made the job-offer allegations. Both the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives have called for an investigation, since if true, such offers would be a violation of Ontario's Election Act.
Late Monday, Wynne and Sorbara denied the allegations, and Lougheed said his only purpose in meeting with Olivier was to try and keep him in the Liberal fold, despite being passed over in favour of Thibeault. He said the meeting was positive and no harsh words were exchanged, and he was under the impression Olivier understood why the party made the decision.
“I have no idea what changed — I only talked to him once, and that was in his office,” Lougheed said.
“I only want what's the best for Sudbury, the best for Andrew and the best for Glenn. I thought as a team, it would be a good approach. But I guess Andrew had other ideas.”