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Wynne staffer suggested ‘longer-term role’ for Olivier

By Star Staff
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Accessibility News Note: Welcome to Premier Wynne’s Ontario, Disabled need not apply.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne addresses Liberal supporters at the opening of Sudbury Liberal byelection candidate Glenn Thibeault’s campaign office in Sudbury, ON. on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.

Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff told Andrew Olivier last month the Liberal Party would try to find a “longer-term role” for the former candidate once he stepped aside to allow Glenn Thibeault, the former NDP MP, to run for the Grits in the Sudbury byelection.

Pat Sorbara contacted Olivier on Dec. 12, after prominent local Liberal Gerry Lougheed Jr., and Premier Wynne had contacted Olivier to ask he not seek the party nomination for the Feb. 5 byelection, as the premier wanted to appoint Thibeault instead.

Olivier, who is now running as an independent, released recordings of his conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara following a press conference at his home on Thursday.

“I was hesitant to go here, because I don’t want to suggest there’s a consolation prize, but I hear you say, and I heard you say it up there, and I hear you say that ‘I want to be involved and I want to be at the table,’ ” Sorbara can be heard saying. “And that’s what she was trying to say to you, is that ‘I want you to have a role.’ ”

During the conversation, Sorbara tells him that by stepping aside, he would be making a personal sacrifice for the good of the party, due to the “extraordinary situation” caused by Thibeault’s defection from the New Democrats, and says he can still be a candidate for the party in the future or fill a different role for the party.

Sorbara does not explicitly offer appointments or jobs to Olivier as compensation for bowing out, but says there are accessibility and disability advocacy committees “we could give you a voice on.”

Olivier, 36, is quadriplegic and in addition to his job as a mortgage broker, works as an accessibility consultant for the disabled.

“If you, for example, wanted to be on the executive of the Ontario Liberal Party, that would give you a voice at the party level,” Sorbara says. “If there are other things you’re particularly interested in which is within her realm to make you part of, she is more than prepared to do that.

“There are lots of other avenues we can look at.”

Olivier did not release a recording of his conversation with Wynne, which was referred to several times by Sorbara, nor would Olivier confirm for media if indeed he recorded his talk with the premier.

Olivier is noncommittal, but asks if he can speak with Thibeault. Sorbara says she expects Thibeault will be open to it.

“This is all new information,” Olivier says. “I don’t consider it a consolation prize and all these options are great. I currently am working; this is something I’m proud of, what I’m doing, so it may be something on your first suggestion, doing some stuff with advocacy, with the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) and that legislation.”

While initially firm in his refusal to step aside, Oliver closes the conversation by acknowledging that he doesn’t “have a choice” in regard to whether Wynne appoints Thibeault, but says that doesn’t mean it has to be “a dirty situation.”

“It could come out well for all of us, Pat,” Olivier says.

On Dec. 15, Olivier held a press conference during which he announced he would not seek the nomination, but would not endorse the party’s chosen candidate.

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