He will run in an upcoming byelection in Sudbury to replace former NDP MPP Joe Cimino, who abruptly resigned Nov. 20. Thibeault's decision came as a shock to the city's political scene, and members of the local Liberal riding association were livid it was a done deal before they even heard about it.
“When someone is making a difficult decision, a decision like Glenn was making, it's important that there be a small number of people who are part of that conversation,” Wynne said, in an interview at Northern Life's Elgin Street office. “That was why it unfolded the way it did. And the fact we were moving quickly.”
She was in town to try and mend fences with the local association, who met Thursday night to decide how to react. President Bill Nurmi said Friday they will support Thibeault through the byelection, but most have decided to resign before the next Annual General Meeting in protest.
“Although some people may decide to stay on,” Nurmi said.
While praising Thibeault as a candidate, Nurmi said earlier in the week that the closed-door deal making, and the lack of a democratic vote, was not something they could support.
On Tuesday, local Liberal fundraiser Gerry Lougheed Jr. said Wynne contacted him to tell him Thibeault was going to be the candidate. He met with two candidates who were planning to run for the Liberal nomination and asked them to stand aside since Wynne was appointing someone else.
One candidate, who has not been publicly identified, agreed, while the other – Andrew Olivier – publicly denounced the backroom process at a news conference Monday.
Olivier, who came close to winning the riding for the party in the June election, alleged Lougheed and another party official said he would be rewarded with a job or an appointment if he withdrew quietly. Wynne also called him personally.
The premier denied the charge again Friday, saying they only encouraged Olivier to stay involved with the party.
“I had that conversation because I wanted him to be clear about what was happening,” she said. “There was nothing specific offered to Andrew. And there was nothing asked. It was a conversation about keeping him involved.”
It was necessary to appoint Thibeault, rather than have a democratic nomination, because she wants to hold the byelection quickly, Wynne said.
“There was a time constraint, that's really the issue,” she said. “We wanted to get a candidate in place so that we can be ready for a byelection. I think sooner, rather than later, we need to have an MPP at Queen's Park representing Sudbury. That's why we've gone through the process as quickly as we have.”
She said she had a positive meeting with the riding association Friday, and was happy they would stay on to help Thibeault through the byelection.
“I'm here because I wanted to be sure the riding association knew they are an important part of the Liberal team,” Wynne said. “I know that some of them at least will leave the executive once we go through the byelection. But what's wonderful is that they are going to work with us, they are going to support Glenn, and that's very important.”
For his part, Thibeault said it's important that he be able to begin planning for the election as soon as possible.
“From switching from where I was coming from to where I am going, I needed to be able to be boots on the ground, ready to go, to get the trust of the people again to ensure they are going to vote for me and send me to Queen's Park,” he said. “I don't take any of this for granted.”
As for his former New Democrat colleagues, some of whom have been extremely critical of his decision, Thibeault said he understands why they are upset.
“They are good people, they are passionate people and I have no ill will towards any of them,” he said.
“I understand where they are coming from. I don't begrudge them the opportunity to say what they need to say. And sometimes when you're hurt, you say things that don't necessarily reflect who you are.”
Some of his former colleagues have quietly wished him well, Thibeault said, and thanked him for his service.
“Others, not so much.”
One of those colleagues, Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, told Northern Life this week that he was “shattered” by Thibeault's defection, someone he considered a close ally.
“I really want to believe that Glenn hasn't really thought this through, that he was tired and stressed,” Angus said. “I can't believe that Glenn would be this cynical, to cook up this deal on the side and carrying it through … I still can't get my head around it.”
When asked about Angus's reaction, Thibeault said, “Charlie's a dedicated individual, and I wish him well.
“I was unhappy in Ottawa, and with the group I was with,” he added, about why he decided to leave the NDP.