NDP election bribery bill passes second vote, raises more questions for Liberals

NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson says successful second reading of his Putting Voters First Act puts the governing Wynne Liberals between a rock and a hard place.

The Act, which would make it illegal to “apply for, accept or agree to accept” a bribe in return for “agreeing to become a candidate, refraining from becoming a candidate or withdrawing his or her candidacy” was introduced in response to prosecution currently underway regarding the 2015 Sudbury by-election.

“It is complete nonsense that it would be illegal to offer a bribe to someone, but not illegal to accept a bribe,” said Bisson, MPP for Timmins-James Bay. “This simple piece of legislation restores some sanity to the Elections Act, and introduces a simple measure of accountability that some members of this legislature would rather not see.”

Two high-ranking Liberal executives are accused of offering “certain benefits, offers or … employment” to candidates in the by-election. While they are now facing bribery charges under the Election Act, Sudbury MPP and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault is not under investigation because under current legislation it’s not illegal to accept a bribe – only to offer one.

“Obviously the Liberals felt cornered here,” said Bisson after the vote. “No government would vote in favour of allowing political candidates to accept a bribe. But now their hypocrisy is even more blatant: you can’t, in good conscience, vote to ban candidates from accepting bribes while allowing a Minister to retain his portfolio who has done just that.” 

The Crown lawyer prosecuting the case has told media that Thibeault sought benefits in return for his candidacy, but would avoid prosecution under current law.

“Premier Wynne needs to do what is right for the people of Ontario, and for democracy,” said Bisson. “She needs to ask Mr. Thibeault to resign his position in cabinet, at least until the case in Sudbury is resolved.”