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January 13, 2015 - Vol. 4 No. 3


By-Election Called for February 5

By-Election Called for February 5
Crisis of Democracy Once Again Shows Necessity for Democratic Renewal - David Starbuck
Independent Announces Candidacy
Brief Chronology of Recent Political Developments


By-Election Called for February 5

The provincial government announced January 7 that the writ had been issued for a February 5 by-election in Sudbury to replace NDP MPP Joe Cimino, who won the seat last June, but resigned after five months on the job citing family and personal reasons. Cimino's election ended almost 19 years in which the Liberals held the seat.

The resignation developed into a crisis of democracy when Andrew Olivier, the Liberal candidate in last June's election held a press conference December 15 and announced that he had been asked by Gerry Lougheed Jr., a Sudbury Liberal Party fundraiser; Pat Sorbara, the Premier's assistant chief of staff; and Premier Kathleen Wynne to stand aside for a "choice candidate." Olivier also said it was intimated that there was a job or appointment for him should he endorse this move.

The next day, Glenn Thibeault, the NDP MP for Sudbury, announced that he would resign the federal seat because he had been appointed by Premier Wynne as the Liberal candidate in the Sudbury by-election, and that this precluded a normal nomination process. This announcement set off a storm of protest in Sudbury in which Thibeault's actions have been widely condemned as betrayal and opportunism.

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Crisis of Democracy Once Again Shows Necessity for Democratic Renewal

The December 16 announcement by the Ontario Liberal Party that it had appointed NDP MP Glenn Thibeault as its candidate in the Sudbury provincial by-election and had thereby cancelled the normal nomination process has brought to the fore the profound crisis in a so-called democratic system in which the people's participation is blocked. This followed the December 15 revelation by Andrew Olivier, the Liberal candidate in last June's general election, that he had been pressured by Liberal bigwigs, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, to step aside in favour of Thibeault, with the prospect of a plum job or appointment in store for him should he cooperate.

The crisis of democracy in Sudbury shows the necessity to come to terms with the cartel party system that keeps the people out of power and to step up the work for the democratic renewal of the political process to empower the citizenry, not the political parties, as the decision-makers in society.

The cartel parties monopolize Ontario politics. They keep people out of decision-making and control the levers of state power. They consider politics to be a partisan game in which the goal is to be on the winning team -- the team that gets to divvy up the spoils of office amongst themselves and their cronies. At times, the party that has been elected declares that the situation has changed and that they must implement what they campaigned against. At other times, two parties split the vote and a party with a minority of popular votes wins a majority of seats and exercises a dictatorship over decision-making for their term of office. This time, an elected MP switched parties, with evidence of a promise of an appointment as cabinet minister or parliamentary assistant, thus negating the will of the electors of Sudbury who thought they had elected a representative who stood for a certain program.

The key thing in the democratic process is to ensure that the popular will is expressed. In the past year, there has been considerable confusion internationally as to what constitutes democracy. In Hong Kong, there was the Umbrella Movement this past fall. A colour revolution backed by U.S.-financed NGOs, the Umbrella Movement attempted to undermine the government of China by making a fuss about the process in which an electoral council is to select three candidates, one of whom will be elected in a popular vote. This they said was anti-democratic, demanding the right to nominate candidates directly and demanding "real" democracy as in the U.S., UK and Canada. It is unlikely that Kathleen Wynne, Glenn Thibeault and the Ontario Liberals will be making reference to the Umbrella Movement anytime soon.

In Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, the people organized referenda last spring in which they voted to exercise their right to self-determination. U.S.-led critics denounced these referenda as anti-democratic, objecting to the fact that these referenda were held at all as well as certain procedures such as the use of Plexiglas ballot boxes and proxy votes. What the critics have refused to recognize is that the results of these referenda reflected the will of the people and their striving for arrangements that serve their interests. It is important to look at the essence of the matter in its real context and not simply laud high ideals with which nobody disagrees.

In my opinion, the will of the people of Sudbury is to elect a representative who represents their interests and not those of the cartel parties. Sudburians have an opportunity to participate in this by-election in a manner that empowers them and opposes the cynicism of the cartel party system that plays them for fools. Sudburians should go all out to mobilize each other to see that a candidate is elected whose mandate comes from the popular will not the anti-social austerity agenda championed by the cartel parties, and that whoever is elected is held to account. Doing so would firmly reject the blackmail that the people cannot take an independent stand and are beholden to the ruling circles to set the agenda.

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Independent Announces Candidacy

Andrew Olivier announced on January 5 that he will run in the upcoming Sudbury by-election as an independent candidate. Olivier was the Liberal candidate in last June's provincial election, losing to NDP candidate Joe Cimino by 980 votes. After Cimino's surprise resignation, Olivier indicated his intention to seek the Liberal nomination in the ensuing by-election. However, Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals appointed Sudbury NDP MP Glenn Thibeault as their "choice candidate," bypassing the normal nomination process. Sudburians should consider whether Olivier, who less than a year ago was a candidate running on the anti-social program of the Liberals, is someone who, because of his experience being burned by the Liberals, can now be considered to represent the popular will of Sudbury. Which candidate can provide an alternative to the cartel party system that is clearly excluding the people from decision-making in those matters that affect their lives?

At a press conference held at the Plaza Hotel (his family's business) on his 36th birthday and the 20th anniversary of the day he became paraplegic, Olivier said that he decided to run after receiving "overwhelming" support following his disclosure that the Ontario Liberal Party had asked him not to run as their Sudbury candidate and that he had been offered a job if he agreed to go quietly, allegations that are being investigated by the OPP as a possible breach of Ontario's Elections Act.

"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. I still want to be that voice while supporting my centrist values, and the best interests of Sudbury and Sudburians first and foremost."

"Sudbury has a right to choose an MPP who lives by loyalty, integrity and openness; who is a proven fighter and advocate for the needs of our community; who will not be silenced by back-room dealers or king-makers; 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."

"A strong message needs to be sent to Toronto -- we will not be bullied, we will not be bought. The needs of our community will not be bargained away for stature, opportunism or personal gain."

"As an independent, we are going to be able to speak at Queen's Park with no strings attached on the things we need for Sudbury. I will make sure the government stands by their commitments to Sudbury. I can work hard for and with Sudburians to make choices that are in the best interests of our community."

If he wins, 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.

"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."

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Brief Chronology of Recent Political Developments

November 20, 2014: Joe Cimino, elected NDP MPP in the Sudbury electoral district in the Ontario general election on June 12, announced his resignation, citing "my personal health wellness, and more importantly the well-being of my family." Cimino was the NDP Transportation Critic and a member of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy. Before his election as MPP, he was a City of Greater Sudbury Councillor.

November 28, 2014: Nickel Belt MPPs France Gelinas of Nickel Belt and Michael Mantha of Algoma-Manitoulin said that they will ensure Sudbury's concerns are represented in the Legislature and that residents' constituency needs are met until a by-election is called. Mantha took Cimino's role as transportation critic for the NDP, in addition to being his party's Northern Development and Mines critic.

December 5, 2014: Cimino announced that he will not accept the $58,250 in severance pay to which he is entitled according to section 69 (2) of the Legislative Assembly Act whereby a member of the provincial parliament who resigns having served four years or less is entitled to half of their annual salary in severance in addition to what they earned as MPP.

December 11, 2014: Four candidates announced they are seeking the NDP nomination. Two former Sudbury NDP candidates, Paul Loewenberg and Dave Battaino, former mayoral and councillor candidate John Caruso, and Jesse Gaudet who ran for councillor in the October municipal election, said they will seek the nomination.

December 15, 2014: Andrew Olivier, the Liberal candidate in the June 12 provincial election, announced he had been asked not to seek the nomination in the by-election because the Liberal Party had a "choice candidate" and that he had been offered a job if he agreed to go quietly. See this YouTube video of Andrew Olivier's December 15 press conference in which he exposed the backroom scheme to appoint a "choice candidate" to run in Sudbury.

December 15, 2014: Paula Peroni, a retired school trustee who was the PC party’s candidate in the 2014 and 2011 provincial general elections, is nominated as the candidate in the by-election.

December 16, 2014: Sudbury New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault announced he had been appointed by Premier Kathleen Wynne as the Liberal candidate in the provincial by-election and that no nomination meeting would be held. He also announced his resignation from the NDP federal caucus, while staying on as the MP for Sudbury.

December 18, 2014: Timmins-James Bay New Democrat MPP Gilles Bisson called on Elections Ontario to investigate what he called "an alleged bribery attempt." Bisson has also asked the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure information relating to Wynne's dealings with Olivier and Thibeault is not destroyed or deleted. "Such steps should include obtaining a legal preservation order, and seeking the immediate and proactive seizure of the premier's hard drive, as well as hard drives for her chief of staff and deputy chiefs of staff and other individuals, as required. I would also suggest seeking preservation of emails at the Liberal Party of Ontario, and that of Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault," wrote Bisson.

December 18, 2014: Leeds-Grenville Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark asked the OPP to investigate allegations by Andrew Olivier that he was offered political considerations by Wynne, Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed Jr. if he didn't seek the Liberal nomination. Lougheed has long ties to the Liberal Party and serves on the Greater Sudbury Police Service's board of directors. Sorbara is deputy chief of staff to Wynne.

December 18, 2014: Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay, said in a statement that "Mr. Thibeault's decision speaks to a cynicism that is choking Canadian politics. Some politicians seem to forget they were elected, not on their personality, but because a lot of ordinary people did the hard work of putting up signs, working the phones and knocking on doors. These people volunteer because they believe the candidate will represent the vision of the party. I am very sorry that Mr. Thibeault decided that a backroom deal with insiders trumps this covenant. It sends a message that you can't trust the promises of politicians. I spent my political life fighting this cynicism ... I believe the 'best offer' a politician can have is to stand up for the ordinary people of this country who are not being represented by insiders and the well-connected."

December 19, 2014: Andre Bisson, the vice-president of the Liberal Party of Ontario for the northern region, resigned. The Liberal Party issued a statement: "We confirm Andre resigned and we thank him for his wonderful service to the party as a member of the Ontario Liberal Party executive. (Bisson) left his position for personal reasons. He will continue to be an active member and strong supporter of the party."

December 19, 2014: Ten members of the executive of the Sudbury provincial Liberal riding association, including Bill Nurmi, who had been president of the association for 20 years, resigned. He and his executive felt "left on the sidelines" and angered and hurt by having their decision-making power usurped, Nurmi said. About 10 members of the executive met to discuss how to move forward after Wynne appointed Glenn Thibeault the Liberal candidate. Nurmi met with Wynne at the home of former long-time Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci to discuss the decision his association made. He had an open and frank discussion with the premier about how the association executive was feeling in which Wynne understood and "acknowledged our concerns," said Nurmi. He let her know, on behalf of his executive, that it was not Thibeault the man they were opposing; it was the process by which he was named as the Liberal candidate.

December 19, 2014: Suzanne Shawbonquit announced she will seek the NDP nomination for the provincial by-election in Sudbury. Shawbonquit is a graduate of Cambrian College's Native Child and Family Worker Program, the Executive Business Program at Queen's University, as well as the Media Leadership Program at York University's Schulich School of Business.

January 4, 2015: Paul Loewenberg, the New Democrat who came within 501 votes of defeating long-time Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci in the 2011 provincial election and who was seeking the nomination to run in the provincial by-election in Sudbury withdrew from that race and asked his supporters to back Suzanne Shawbonquit. Loewenberg said he will seek the federal NDP nomination in either a by-election or the general election to be held later this year.

January 5, 2015: Andrew Olivier announced he will run in the upcoming by-election as an independent candidate. Olivier said he decided to run after receiving "overwhelming" support following his announcement that the Ontario Liberal Party had asked him not to run as their Sudbury candidate.

January 6, 2015: Glenn Thibeault officially resigned as the federal MP for Sudbury after serving in Parliament for more than six years. "There were no regrets in terms of resigning, because I'm looking forward to fighting in another election, so I'm still actively engaged in politics," he said. Thibeault said Sudburians have several pressing issues they expect to be raised at Queen's Park, including the Ring of Fire chromite development, the Maley Drive extension, the creation of "good jobs" and local health care resources and a PET scanner.

January 6: The Green Party nominates David Robinson, a professor of economics at Laurentian University as their candidate in the by-election.

January 7, 2015: The provincial government announced that the writ had been issued for the Sudbury by-election.

January 10, 2015: Premier Wynne visited Sudbury to open the campaign headquarters of Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault.

January 11, 2015: The NDP provincial riding association for Sudbury held its nomination meeting at the Steelworkers' Hall on Brady Street and selected Suzanne Shawbonquit as its candidate.

Upcoming Events

January 15, 2015: Nominations open.

January 22, 2015: Nominations close.

January 24-30, 2015: Advance polls are open.

February 5, 2015: Election Day in Sudbury.

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