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An abject public apology by the NDP's talkative MP, Pat Martin, has failed to fend off a $5 million lawsuit by the president of Edmonton automated calls firm RackNine.
Asked Friday if the lawsuit is going ahead anyway, Matt Meier's lawyer, Justin Matthews of Edmonton, said, "Yes."
In a new court filing, Matthews cites what he calls "exceptionally inflammatory and sensationalistic" defamation and "ongoing malice" by the New Democratic Party and its much-quoted MP from Winnipeg Centre.
Meier's company, RackNine, wants the NDP and Martin to pay $5 million in damages for saying that "RackNine rascals" helped the Conservatives to mislead voters with bogus robocalls in the May 2011 election.
The calls purported to come from Elections Canada and told more than 6,700 voters in Guelph that their polling stations had changed, when they hadn't. It later emerged that the calls originated from a disposable "burner" cellphone bought under the fake name of "Pierre Poutine." The numbers called, according to Elections Canada court filings, matched those in a Conservative Party database of non-supporters.
When the story broke in February of this year, Martin, the MP for Winnipeg Centre, named RackNine, a telemarketing company in Edmonton, as part of a Conservative scheme to steal the election. While MPs are protected from libel claims inside the House of Commons, Martin stepped outside the House on Feb. 23 to denounce "hundreds of thousands of phony phone calls by the RackNine rascals."
Matt Meier responded that his company did not make the calls or even know of their content, but merely served as a phone company to carry the calls. In an embarrassing climb-down on April 16th, Martin, the MP for Winnipeg Centre, apologized and admitted that "statements I made insinuating Mr. Meier's and RackNine's participation in an electoral fraud conspiracy were wholly and unequivocally false."
Now, it seems, the apology did not work.
In a court filing dated May 30 and obtained by CBC News, RackNine's lawyer, Justin Matthews of Edmonton, claims "continued malice" by the NDP and demands a hefty $2.5 million in general and aggravated "damages for defamation," plus another $2.5 million in "special damages for loss of business income."
The pleading alleges an "unreasonable delay in offering an apology by the Plaintiffs."
In his statement of defence, the NDP's lawyer, Peter Jacobson, denies that RackNine "suffered any damage as a result of the words complained of" and calls the amount claimed "grossly disproportionate." Jacobson also denies that RackNine suffered any loss of income.
Jacobson's statement adds that Martin's public apology "was widely disseminated in the press...in mitigation of any damages claimed."
He calls the RackNine claim "ill-conceived and abusive as it is directed at a political party with the responsibility to speak on matters of significant public interest to Canadians."