Remembrance Week proclaimed; but government sullied by ‘patronage and backroom dealing’

This week at Queen’s Park (Nov. 4)

by MPP Jim McDonell

The smoldering Sudbury by-election alleged bribery investigation, and its effects on the current government were re-ignited with full force this week. Pat Sorbara, formerly Premier Wynne’s deputy chief of staff and until Tuesday the Liberal Party’s CEO and Gerry Lougheed Jr, a political operative and fundraiser in Sudbury, were officially charged with violating the Elections Act. They allegedly offered Andrew Olivier, the previous Liberal candidate, a public appointment in exchange for him not seeking the party’s nomination, allowing today’s Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault to be nominated unopposed.

The essential principle of public appointments is that they are not to be sold, traded or exchanged. Neither Sorbara nor Lougheed had the authority, on their own, to grant such an appointment. The Official Opposition asked a very simple question: who instructed Ms. Sorbara to make that offer? The premier and the government refused to answer, despite the integrity of the entire government being called into question.

Here is what we know: In conversations taped by Andrew Olivier (due to his condition, he cannot take notes), Gerry Lougheed Jr. said he called “on behalf of the premier” and appeared to offer “appointments, jobs, whatever” if Olivier did not run for the Liberal nomination. Before that call was made, Pat Sorbara had called the deputy director of HR in the premier’s Office of Public Appointments. Furthermore, Sorbara told Olivier the following: “If there were other things that you’re particularly interested in that is within her realm to make you part of, then she is more than prepared to do that” and “Whether it’s a full-time or a part-time job in a constit office, whether it is appointments, supports or commissions”.

These facts just scratch the surface of a scandal that strikes at the very foundation of representative democracy. The charges present a picture of patronage, backroom dealing and a complete disregard for the processes our politics and government systems have in place. We deserve much better from our government.

In the House, the Government shut down debate on Bill 7, which would create yet another strategy for housing affordability (we are yet to see tangible and measurable targets to evaluate it), and we began debating legislation on aggregate materials. Bill 39 amends several provisions governing how aggregate licenses are granted, how material is extracted, how it is recycled and what reports need to be filed with various Ministries. The PC Caucus raised several concerns, namely the reduced reporting requirements for aggregate extractors and a vague ministerial power to determine whether there had been “adequate consultation” prior to a license being issued. Ontario needs infrastructure, which means we’ll need pits and quarries to supply the building materials. The current process is already quite cumbersome and does not engage communities and extractors adequately in partnership. If the government is reforming the Aggregate Resources Act and the Mining Act, it should focus on ensuring our aggregate and mining industries can face the challenges of tomorrow with better, more effective regulation and a transparent community engagement process. The Legislature also passed Bills relating to grandparents’ access to their grandchildren and ending genetic discrimination.

On Wednesday, we proclaimed Remembrance Week to honour the sacrifices made by all Canadians who served, with pride and dedication, in the defence of our country. We have to keep the memory of their sacrifice and their service alive for current and future generations, as a tangible reminder of how precious our peace and freedom truly are. During the upcoming legislative recess, I look forward to attending as many of our community’s Remembrance Day ceremonies as possible and to the opportunity to see you.