Manitoba

People's Party candidate Steven Fletcher fires back at Conservatives, says he'll file defamation suit

The divorce between former federal cabinet minister Steven Fletcher and his old party has taken another turn, with the People's Party candidate is suing the Conservative Electoral District Association of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley. 

Fletcher sent notice of intention to sue after being ordered to return materials and electronic voter data

Steven Fletcher, running for the People's Party in St. James-Charleswood-Assiniboia -Headingley, says he plans to sue the Conservative Electoral District Association for the riding, alleging defamation. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The divorce between former federal cabinet minister Steven Fletcher and his old party has taken another turn, with the People's Party candidate saying he will sue the Conservative Electoral District Association of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.

The former Conservative MP is alleging defamation after a letter from the district association accusing him of appropriating property ended up being posted to Twitter.

The electoral district association sent Fletcher the legal notice on Sept. 14 through its attorney, George Orle, alleging that when Fletcher left the Conservative Party, he took electronic voter data and campaign material that was not his property.

It was posted to Twitter by Michael Diamond, a campaign strategist in Toronto who said he has no involvement in any campaign. Both Orle and the EDA deny leaking the letter, but Fletcher has said he believes it was released intentionally.

"It was a very poorly thought out political attack, which demands the reaction legally," Fletcher said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I gave them the opportunity. I took the high road and they took the low road, and people will see it for what it is."

Fletcher's notice of his intention to file a suit, signed by his attorney, John H. Restall Jr., was sent to the Conservative electoral district association on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

"Consider this letter as notification to your client (clients) that Mr. Fletcher intends to commence action against your client (clients) for defamation given the Twitter publication of your letter to him," the letter reads.

Fletcher is demanding an "immediate public apology" and that data gathered during his time as president of the EDA and as a MP be deleted from the association's system.

"Quite simply, there was no theft at any time and even the mention of it is defamatory to Mr. Fletcher," the letter reads.

Fletcher took to social media to post the letter, so he could give the Conservatives a taste of their own medicine, he said.

CBC News tried to reach the association and Orle via phone and email on Wednesday afternoon, but neither could be reached for comment.

A sign for Steven Fletcher used during the 2015 federal election, when he ran as a Conservative candidate, is being repurposed as he runs for the People's Party of Canada. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

The relationship between Fletcher and the federal Conservatives soured when he was not allowed to run to contend to be the party's nominee in the federal Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley riding.

Fletcher had served as the Conservative MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia from 2004 to 2015, when he was defeated by Liberal Doug Eyolfson. 

The Conservatives instead picked former Winnipeg city councillor Marty Morantz as their candidate.

Fletcher will now face Morantz in the Oct. 21 as the People's Party of Canada's candidate in the riding.

Eyolfson is running again for the Liberals in the riding and Ken St. George is running for the NDP.

Earlier this month, CBC News reported that Fletcher had posted signs across the riding made during his previous run as a Conservative MP, with a streak of blue paint used to cover the Tory logo on the signs.

When asked if the legal notice issued this week was intended simply to get the EDA to back off, Fletcher said he has every intention to pursue a legal case.

"They're trying to do things through the legal system and it's inappropriate," he said. "There has to be consequences."

According to the letter, the two sides had their legal counsels meet on Sept. 17, but no resolution was reached. 

Voters head to the polls on Oct. 21. 

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