Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak says he’s "not backing down" from comments he made about Premier Kathleen Wynne even though he has been hit with a libel notice.
The premier has objected to statements Hudak has made regarding her alleged involvement in the destruction of documents related to a pair of cancelled gas plants.
A week ago, Wynne released an open letter, indicating that Hudak had made "several false, misleading and defamatory allegations" about her.
Specifically, the premier said that the Official Opposition leader had alleged that criminal conduct had taken place in her office and also alleged that Wynne had overseen "and possibly ordered" the destruction of documents.
"These allegations and accusations are false and utterly unsupported, and you ought to know it," Wynne said in her March 30 letter.
The premier urged Hudak and his caucus to "immediately stop repeating these untrue statements and to immediately remove them from the PC Party website and all other communications."
On Friday, Wynne’s spokesperson said that Hudak had been served with a libel notice, as had the Ontario PC Party, the Ontario PC Fund, and Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod.
Two days later, Hudak commented on the issue on a Newstalk 1010 radio show, though he did not repeat the earlier accusations that the premier had objected to.
"I'm not backing down, they're not going to silence us. We're not going to be part of the cover-up. We're going to hold them to account," Hudak told listeners Sunday.
A libel notice does not necessarily mean that a defamation suit will be initiated. But it is the first step in that process.
Zita Astravas, a spokeswoman for the premier, said it was "unfortunate" that Hudak didn't retract his accusations, but didn't say whether a lawsuit will now go ahead.
Peter Graefe, an associate professor of political science at Hamilton’s McMaster University, said that a defamation suit could carry risks for both Wynne and Hudak.
Graefe said that some may end up seeing the premier as "a bully" for taking Hudak to court, rather than debating the issue in the legislature.
But he said that the defamation suit "also doesn’t look good on Tim Hudak," particularly if the public sees the entire episode as being characteristic of his personality.
"I guess that’s Kathleen Wynne’s gamble with this, in that a lot of people think that [Hudak] is impulsive, that he says things that aren’t necessarily the full truth," Graefe said. "And she hopes, I think, by bringing this forward to convince Ontarians that this is another instance where he says something that’s not right and rather than admitting it, he persists in it to the point where she needs to bring a court case."