Ontario premier defends Liberals' 'back rooms' meeting with Speaker



TORONTO -- If Speaker Dave Levac says he wasn't pressured by senior Liberal staffers to change a contempt ruling, that's good enough for Premier Kathleen Wynne.

"He's made it clear that there was, as I understand it, no undue pressure put on him. He never felt that he was put in a situation where he couldn't make an independent decision," Wynne said Wednesday. "I have enormous respect for Dave Levac ... and I'm going to take him at his word that that is what happened.

MORE: Ontario premier in the hot seat for Speaker bullying

"I would not countenance any undue pressure being applied to the Speaker," she said.

A senior member of former premier Dalton McGuinty's staff was dispatched to have a talk with the "member from Brant" last September, shortly after Levac ruled that there was a prima facie finding of contempt in withholding of gas plant documents, according to new internal e-mails.

Levac issued a statement Tuesday that did not deny he met with Dave Gene, of McGuinty's office, but that he did not feel political pressure and did not change his ruling.

Wynne said she sees no problem with premier's staff meeting with the Speaker.

"People talk to the Speaker all the time, you know, the Speaker needs to talk to all parties about the workings of the house," she said.

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said Liberal operatives were trying to bully the Speaker -- ironically, at the same time the government was passing anti-bullying legislation to protect school children.

As NDP house leader, Bisson said he raises his concerns about a ruling in the legislature, rather than sending staff to meet in a "dark corner" with the Speaker.

Levac's statement has not answered the questions he has about the incident, Bisson said.

"There's something stinky here," Bisson said.

PC MPP Rob Leone said their MPPs also raise their issues on the floor of the legislature, not in "back rooms" to avoid scrutiny.

"What we've seen since...is that outsiders, Liberal outsiders, people who aren't actually working in the government anymore, independently influencing the Speaker of the legislature... It's been called hijacking democracy," Leone said. "It is exactly that."

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