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Kathleen Wynne threatens legal action after 'defamatory' Patrick Brown statement

Brown is calling the letter an attempt to divert the public from the trial itself

Patrick Brown Kathleen Wynne

Patrick Brown referenced Wynne's participation in the Sudbury byelection trial after question period on Tuesday. (Canadian Press)

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The legal team representing Kathleen Wynne is demanding an apology from Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown over an allegedly "defamatory" statement about the premier's participation in the Sudbury byelection scandal trial.

While speaking to reporters at Queen's Park on Tuesday, Brown was asked by CBC Toronto's Mike Crawley why he did not specifically ask about the bribery scandal during question period.

"I hope that the premier will give us answers, we're not getting them in the legislature, maybe when she stands trial," Brown responded. 

In a letter addressed to Brown obtained by CBC Toronto, Wynne's lawyer Jack B. Siegel took issue with Brown's use of the phrase "when she stands trial."

"Contrary to your statement, Premier Wynne is not standing trial. Your statement is false and misleading and appears to have been made with the intention to harm the reputation of Ms. Wynne," Siegel wrote, adding that Wynne is not subject to any charges in the trial.

Three demands

In the letter, Siegel makes three demands that Brown must fulfill by 5 p.m. Thursday. They include:

  • That Brown publish a full retraction of the defamatory statements, to be published by every media outlet that has republished them, and distributed to every media outlet that had a representative in attendance.
  • That Brown provide a full apology for the defamatory statements, to be published along with each retraction, and provided in writing to Premier Wynne.
  • That Brown refrain from making any further defamatory statements whatsoever about Premier Wynne.

If the demands are not met, Siegel says Wynne will take "whatever steps are necessary and appropriate to vindicate her reputation and to enforce her legal rights to the full extent of the law."

Brown responds

When asked about the demands during an interview with CBC Radio's Ontario Today, Brown did not retract or apologize for his choice of wording. He instead called the letter a ploy to distract the public from the Sudbury byelection and gas plants trials now underway.

"It's become abundantly clear that this Liberal party, Premier Kathleen Wynne, will say anything and do anything to divert the public from these two Liberal political corruption trials," said Brown, adding that his lawyer would respond to the letter "in due course."

In the meantime, Brown said he would not "take the bait on their diversion tactics."

Precedent for a legal battle

A court battle with Brown would not be Wynne's first attempt at legal action following an issue with the Tories.

In 2014, Wynne pursued a $2 million libel suit against then-PC leader Tim Hudak after Hudak said the premier "oversaw and possibly ordered" the alleged destruction of government documents related to the so-called gas plants trial.

That suit was later dropped, with both sides announcing they were "pleased to put our legal battles behind us."