Premier Kathleen Wynne sues opposition leader Patrick Brown for defamation
Spokesperson for Wynne says statement of claim filed in court Monday
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is suing the Opposition leader for defamation.
A spokesperson for Wynne says a statement of claim was filed today in order for the premier to be able to continue with her case against Patrick Brown.
Wynne's lawyer first demanded in a letter in September that Brown withdraw comments he made a day before the premier testified as a witness at a trial in Sudbury, Ont., involving two provincial Liberals facing Election Act bribery charges.
The premier was not on trial and had waived parliamentary privilege in order to testify as a witness.
Opposition leader had refused to apologize
The Tory leader refused to apologize for the statements both after an initial letter from Wynne's lawyer and following a libel notice in October, saying he would "ignore her baseless legal threat." His lawyer has said the statements were not defamatory.
Wynne's legal team filed a statement of claim in court Monday that seeks $100,000 in general, aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages. Brown's statements harmed Wynne's reputation, they wrote.
"The deliberate, malicious conduct of the defendant in publishing the defamatory statements is part of an ongoing campaign engineered by the defendant and others to harm the plaintiff's reputation," Wynne's lawyers wrote.
"The defendant's egregious misconduct in publishing statements that he knew to be false, his ongoing refusal to retract these false statements, and his high-handed and oppressive conduct in stating to media and directly to the world at large that the plaintiff's complaints were baseless and would be ignored, all justify an award of aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages against the defendant."
'It should be that simple'
Wynne's spokeswoman said the statement of claim was filed to preserve the premier's ability to continue with the legal case.
"We continue to remain hopeful that this issue can be resolved with an apology from Patrick Brown for his defamatory remarks," Jenn Beaudry wrote. "It should be that simple. However, if he continues to refuse to apologize we will have the ability to continue legal action."
Brown's spokesman Nicholas Bergamini said Monday night the PC leader will continue to ignore the premier's efforts to "gag" the official Opposition.
"Mr. Brown has not been served with or seen the statement of claim," Bergamini said in a statement. "This is yet another effort to distract attention from her government's record."
Bergamini said if Wynne is eager pursue the lawsuit, she should bring it to a public hearing as soon as possible.
"Our lawyer has already suggested an expedited timetable for the exchange of pleadings, document production and examinations," he said.
Conservative MPP Bill Walker also made remarks in September suggesting the premier was under investigation and facing charges in connection with the Sudbury bribery trial. He apologized hours after receiving a letter from Wynne's lawyers.
Wynne's lawyers say defendant 'fully aware' statements false
"Mr. Walker's apology and retraction were widely reported in the media and there can be no doubt that the situation was extensively discussed by (Brown) and his staff," Wynne's lawyers wrote.
"As a result, the defendant was fully aware that the Walker statements were false, and that Mr. Walker had retracted them and issued a public apology."
The two Liberals on trial in Sudbury were ultimately acquitted. Wynne previously sued the former Progressive Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, and another Tory member of provincial parliament after the pair said she oversaw -- and possibly ordered -- the destruction of documents related to two cancelled gas plants.
Those are allegations for which two McGuinty-era staffers are on trial and awaiting a judge's decision.
That lawsuit was resolved in 2015, though it is not known whether it was settled or withdrawn.