RackNine Inc. and its chief executive officer Matt Meier have followed through on an earlier threat and served NDP MP Pat Martin and his party with a $5-million lawsuit Friday.
The Edmonton-based call centre company that is part of the ongoing election calls controversy is suing for defamation, claiming that multiple comments made by Martin, and published by the NDP on its website, demonstrated malice and caused the company to lose business.
RackNine is co-operating with an Elections Canada investigation into suspicious automated phone calls made to voters in Guelph in the last election. The company, which was hired by several candidates for voter outreach, is itself not under investigation.
The statement of claim says that Martin began speaking defamatory words about the company on Feb. 23 at a news conference in Ottawa.
"Martin's words were defamatory, and, in the very least, carried the innuendo that Meier and/or RackNine had committed criminal activity, fraudulent activity, participated in a conspiracy, intimidation, sabotage and/or deceit," the claim says.
According to the lawsuit, Martin made more defamatory remarks later that day when he appeared on CBC's Power & Politics with host Evan Solomon, and on CTV's political talk show, Power Play.
Meier is claiming the NDP published defamatory statements on its website and as a result has named the Official Opposition in the $5-million lawsuit.
He sent letters to Martin and the NDP immediately, asking that an apology be delivered and the statements retracted. But they continued to defame the company and its chief executive owner and Martin had indicated that he had no intention of apologizing, according to Friday's statement of claim.
Meier alleges that the defamatory statements have caused him and his company to be "shunned, avoided, and exposed to hatred, contempt and ridicule" and that Martin and the NDP purposefully tried to maximize the damage to RackNine.
The lawsuit was filed in Edmonton and is seeking:
- General damages of $500,000.
- Aggravated damages of $2,000,000.
- Special damages for lost business income of $2,500,000.
- Punitive damages to be set by the court.
Martin and the NDP have one month to respond to the lawsuit.
The Winnipeg MP, who is known for his sharp tongue, said he met with his lawyer Friday to prepare a response to RackNine's original letter asking for an apology. Then he was served with the lawsuit.
Martin told CBC he is "disappointed" that RackNine would "pull the trigger before they'd even seen the response to their original complaint."
"Classic libel-chill [SLAPP]-suit tactic I guess. How to silence someone with your chequebook," Martin wrote in an email, in reference to a legal tactic aimed at silencing public criticism through litigation.