Nfld. & Labrador

Apologize or face defamation suit, Danny Williams warns Muskrat Falls critic

Williams' legal team has asked megaproject opponent Ron Penney to retract comments he made to the CBC, or else.

Ron Penney told to retract comments he made to the CBC, or else

Ron Penney (left) is facing possible legal action from Danny Williams if he doesn't publicly retract comments and apologize. (CBC)

Danny Williams's lawyer has told a vocal critic of Muskrat Falls to apologize for comments made to the CBC, or face legal action for defamation.

In a letter, lawyer Stephen Marshall took issue with portions of an interview with Ron Penney, a former civil servant and longtime opponent of the hydroelectric megaproject, that were published online on September 13, and aired on CBC Radio September 17.

In that interview with the CBC's Chris O'Neill Yates, Penney spoke of the early days of the project, a time when former premier Williams was its most high-profile promoter, and public support was high.

Williams's lawyer sent the warning letter to Penney the day after the radio interview aired, on September 18.

The letter, obtained by CBC, demands "a properly worded total and absolute public apology and retraction" from Penney "in favour of my client" by the end of the day on September 21, or legal action will be pursued "vigorously."

The inquiry into the Muskrat Falls project began on Monday and is set to include 100 days of public hearings. (Nalcor)

Three sentences

The letter emphasizes three specific comments among Penney's "defamatory statements, connotations or references." Those comments are:

  • In reference to the testimony that will come out during the Muskrat Falls inquiry, Penney said, "We'll know the truth. A lot of people's reputations will be harmed, and rightfully so."
  • In reference to the public support the project enjoyed at the start, Penney said, "Premier Williams was a — a strong, a very forceful personality."
  • On living in a small province where a lot of people have connections to the provincial government, Penney said, "there was a lot of concern that if people spoke out, that they would somehow be harmed or their family would be harmed."

Williams declined to comment to the CBC about the letter.

Penney said he will meet with his lawyer before deciding whether to speak.

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