Nenshi's 'Godfather' defamation defence 'classic,' says legal expert
Calgary mayor being sued by home builder Cal Wenzel, who is seeking $6M in damages
Shane Homes CEO Cal Wenzel is suing the mayor for comments Nenshi made last year.
- Naheed Nenshi files defence in $6M 'Godfather' defamation lawsuit
- Naheed Nenshi to be sued by home builder over 'Godfather' comments
- Calgary home builder admits illegal activity in video, mayor says
On CBC Radio last fall, Nenshi likened Wenzel to “the Godfather,” adding he allegedly broke election laws in the run up to the 2010 municipal vote.
In his defence, Nenshi doesn't deny the comments. The defence states that they are true and constitute fair comment after Wenzel spoke about municipal politics in a secretly-recorded video.
University of Alberta law professor Averie McNary said Nenshi's case will rely on the key pillars of truth and fair comment.
“This is a pretty classic statement of defence to a defamation action. The statement of defence goes through all the things one would expect to see in a statement of defence,” said McNary.
“These words didn't lower Mr. Wenzel's reputation in the eyes of right-thinking people and that was the first thing that appeared in the statement of defence.”
In the statement of defence, Nenshi claims he was only reiterating what other people had said about Wenzel.
“That’s certainly one of the arguments that Mr. Nenshi makes in the statement of defence, that not only was he just repeating it, but lots of other people repeated it as well and it’s certainly a valid legal argument that he’s making.”
Wenzel denies the allegations that he broke any election laws and says Nenshi defamed him and hurt his reputation to further the mayor’s own political agenda.
Mount Royal University associate professor of policy studies Lori Williams says a key question is whether Wenzel suffered any damages.
“There’s some question about whether any damage was caused and if it was caused by Mayor Nenshi and if questions were raised about, let's say, the legality of the campaign contributions or supports given to candidates, that that is something that the public ought to be looking at and is a matter that ought to be considered under the law.”
Williams says it’s also important to consider if the comments were a matter of public interest.
“What’s called fair comment, something that a public figure has every right — and indeed duty — to speak about in a public way.”
The legal document was also the talk at City Hall Wednesday.
One question is whether Nenshi should be included in talks with developers as the city negotiates a new plan for development.
“I’m sure Mayor Nenshi doesn’t want to find himself in a conflict of interest, where policy decisions that we’re making are tainted by his personal circumstance,” said Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Uquhart
Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland also weighed in.
“If Mayor Nenshi is having certain discussions with the developers, there could be residents perceiving that there’s influence or not, or it’s because of the suits.”
Sutherland says the sooner it gets resolved, the better.
“This is just takes away the focus of what council is about.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court and no trial date has been set.