Klein says Day's offer better late than never

Premier Ralph Klein calls an offer by Stockwell Day to repay some of the money Alberta taxpayers spent to settle his defamation suit a good start.

The suit was settled in December at a cost of $792,000. The money came from a legislative fund paid for by taxpayers.

The price tag has dogged the Canadian Alliance leader since it was disclosed that most of the money went to the lawyers involved in the suit. It has also surfaced as an issue in the province's election campaign. But Day said Monday that a cheque will soon be in the mail.

"We have agreed as a family to take out $60,000 against the value of our home to reflect the actual cost of the damages to Mr. Goddard," said Day. "As soon as the paper work is finished, I'll send a personal cheque for $60,000 to the treasurer of Alberta."

Klein says he welcomes the gesture, adding it indicates even more money may be returned to the province.

"To mortgage one's [home] or to take a second mortgage and raise $60,000 dollars, that's pretty significant," says Klein. "I think that gesture possibly will spur on Stockwell's supporters to maybe get behind him to raise some dollars and see what they can do to offset at least his part of the lawsuit."

The suit was filed by Red Deer lawyer Lorne Goddard in 1999 after Day, who was the Alberta treasurer at the time, wrote a letter to a newspaper, criticizing him for defending a convicted pedophile.

In making his statement in Ottawa Monday, Day apologized several times to Goddard and his family.

"My deep regret is that my former friend, Lorne Goddard and his family, have been personally hurt," said Day. "Regardless of the importance of fighting against child pornography, this was never my intention.

"I should have been more careful in any possible implications about Mr. Goddard. I should have used better judgement. I deeply regret and apologize for any hurt he has borne. It was never my intention to hurt him."

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Nancy MacBeth calls Day's apology a political stunt.

"I think it's too little and it's too late," she says. "The issue is between Mr. Day and Mr. Klein and it's about paying back the $792,000 dollars that taxpayers in this province have had to pay for him."

New Democrat Leader Raj Pannu agrees, but says Klein and the Alberta Tories should bear some of the cost.

"Mr. Klein should take the blame along with Mr. Day," says Pannu. Mr. Klein should pay from his party's pocket the $792,000 and then send the sheriff after Mr. Day to collect all that money."

Pannu also says that for a senior politician such as Day to claim he did not intend to defame Goddard would be to admit he didn't know what he was doing.