“Sudbury has a right to choose an MPP who lives by loyalty, integrity and openness,” Olivier said. “Who will not be silenced by backroom dealers or kingmakers. Who will always support Sudbury and never turn his back on his community.
“It has been made clear to me and Sudburians that Toronto has been making the choices for Sudbury. I say that the people of Sudbury should make the decisions for our community – not Toronto.”
Olivier was referring to Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's decision to appoint Thibeault the party's candidate, despite the fact Olivier came within 980 votes of winning the seat in the June election. Former NDP MPP Joe Cimino won that vote, but he resigned in November, citing family and health reasons.
At a newsconference in December, also at the Plaza, Olivier revealed Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed Jr., party campaign strategist Pat Sorbara and Wynne herself all tried to convince him to step aside and support Thibeault.
He also said he was offered a job if he agreed to go quietly, allegations that are currently being investigated as a possible breach of Ontario's Elections Act. Voting for him will send a message, Olivier said, that politics should be transparent. As an independent, he said he won't have to be constrained by party politics while defending his “centrist” values. It's the reason he isn't running for another party, he said.
“I’ve always said Sudbury needs a strong voice in Queen’s Park and that voice needs to be one of integrity, loyalty, and transparency,” he said. “I still want to be that voice while supporting my centrist values and the best interests of Sudbury and Sudburians first and foremost.”
Olivier chose Jan. 5 as the day to make his announcement because not only is it his birthday, it's also the anniversary of the accident that left him a paraplegic. He's been in tough fights before, he said, and he's ready for another.
“A strong message needs to be sent to Toronto – we will not be bullied, we will not be bought,” he said. “The needs of our community will not be bargained away for stature, opportunism or personal gain.”
Should he win, Olivier would be the first independent to hold the riding since it was created in 1908, in addition to being the first quadriplegic elected to the Ontario Legislature.
He's aware of the huge challenges ahead of him, Olivier said. Running without party support means he won't have access to the money and volunteer organization that the other candidates will have. But Olivier said he's received overwhelming support from regular Sudburians, including some Liberals who have followed him. And if he's elected, he vowed to remain an independent for the full four years of his term.
“Like most challenges in my life, this will not be an easy one,” he said. “I will need your help to keep Sudbury strong. I will need your help to contend with these big machines with big wallets.
“I will only make one promise this election: I promise that as an independent, every decision made, every bill supported will be in the best interest of Sudbury and its constituents.”
One of the former Liberals who is in Olivier's corner is well-known boxing coach Gord Apolloni, who attended Monday's campaign launch.
“I was very disappointed, very disillusioned,” Apolloni said about the way the Liberals treated Olivier. “He's a great person who has integrity.
“Andrew and I are very much alike in terms of our morals, our values. That's who I want representing Sudbury.”
For his part, Thibeault said he was hoping until the last minute that Olivier would stay a Liberal.
“I was really hoping that Andrew and I could work together,” Thibeault said Monday. “But I guess we're into a campaign, and I look forward to hearing where he stands on the issues and, as an independent, how he plans on delivering those results.
“It's going to be an interesting campaign, that's for sure.”
The byelection is expected to be held in February, possibly before the Legislature resumes sitting Feb. 17. While Wynne hasn't made an announcement, her spokesperson said Monday a decision is near.
“Premier Wynne knows that the residents of Sudbury are very keen to have a representative at Queen’s Park,” Zita Astravas said in an email. “The premier will be announcing the byelection date very soon.”