It is unprecedented in recent memory – a sitting Premier of Ontario testifying in a trial – but that is what is happening on Wednesday in Sudbury.
Two prominent Liberals have been charged with attempting to bribe a would-be candidate in the 2014 Sudbury byelection.
Pat Sorbara, once Kathleen Wynne’s former campaign manager, and Gerry Lougheed, a well-known and powerful Liberal fundraiser, allegedly offered Andrew Olivier a job if he would step aside to free the race for their handpicked candidate – now energy minister Glenn Thibeault.
Wynne told the court she has known Sorbara for many years.
Although Wynne didn’t have to testify – she could have invoked parliamentary privilege – she announced earlier this year that she would be taking the witness stand.
“I will testify, I will go along with the process and do what I can to clarify, as I have in the legislature many, many, many times,” she said in July.
CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan is at the trial. Click here to follow her Twitter feed.
Wynne is a skilled debater and used to being on the hot seat facing the opposition in the Legislature. She enjoys a spirited back and forth with the media and is likely confident she can hold her own on the stand.
At the same time a second trial began on Monday in Toronto with two more prominent Liberals facing charges.
David Livingston, who was chief of staff to then-premier Dalton McGuinty, and Laura Miller, a former deputy chief of staff, are accused of orchestrating the deletion of emails surrounding the highly controversial cancelled gas plants.
All four are pleading not guilty but even if they are found innocent, the timing is terrible for Kathleen Wynne – whose polling has been nothing short of abysmal.
Just over eight months before the next provincial election, the optics of four high-powered Liberals facing charges feeds into the opposition narrative that the Liberals are incompetent and corrupt.
The question is – just how much dirty Liberal laundry will be aired at each trial? And will the trials be over in time for voters to forget before going to the polls next year?