Harper will seek to have Guergis lawsuit dismissed

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office confirmed late Wednesday that his lawyer will be filing a court motion for the dismissal of the lawsuit that Helena Guergis filed against him and other Conservatives.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to file motion in court Friday

Former Conservative MP Helena Guergis, holds back emotions at a press conference in April, 2011, where she blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office for orchestrating a smear campaign that ousted her from cabinet and caucus. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will seek to have Helena Guergis's lawsuit against him and other Conservatives dismissed, CBC News has learned.

Harper's office confirmed on Wednesday that a motion for an order to strike out, or dismiss, the lawsuit will be filed in court on Friday. The motion will also be filed on behalf of Conservative MP Shelly Glover, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, and Harper's principal secretary, Ray Novak, who are also named in the lawsuit that Guergis filed in December.

Earlier in the day, Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, who is being sued along with Harper and the others, filed his motion to have the claim dismissed.

The lawsuit alleges Giorno, Harper, Glover, Raitt, Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton and other defendants engaged in a conspiracy to get Guergis out of office and it also makes claims related to defamation, negligence and misfeasance in public office.

Giorno filed his motion in court in Ottawa on Wednesday morning. It says the former Conservative MP's "conspiracy theory is utterly devoid of fact" and it "consists entirely of bald assertions."

A copy of the motion was obtained by CBC News.

Lawyers for the parties involved also met Wednesday at the courthouse to discuss procedural matters with the case. Court dates to argue over Giorno's motion were set for Sept. 19 and 20. If court time becomes available, it could be heard sooner.

Guergis is suing for general damages of $800,000 plus punitive damages of $250,000 and aggravated damages of $250,000.

Harper, Giorno, Glover, Raitt, and Novak, filed notices of intent to defend themselves in February. But the deadline for filing the statements of defence came and went.

Harper's office says they were never actually served with the lawsuit and therefore not required to file statements of defence. They proceeded to file the intents to file the statements of defence, however, so that they could file the motion to strike the lawsuit.

Guergis's lawyer, Stephen Victor, did not file a motion with the court to find the parties in default for never filing the statements of defence.

"We're going to be vigorously opposing those motions," Victor told CBC News in an interview, referring to the motions to have the case dismissed.

"The statement of claim discloses reasonable causes of action and we're hopeful that the court will agree with our position, which will enable the evidence to be presented in an open court of law and also so that the evidence can see the light of day," the Ottawa-based lawyer said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, Guy Giorno, filed a court motion Wednesday seeking to have the lawsuit against him by Helena Guregis dismissed. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The motion filed by Giorno on Wednesday is the only development there has been in the case since early February.

His application for the lawsuit against him to be thrown out picks apart Guergis's various claims and lays out why they shouldn't proceed.

Giorno's motion says Guergis has failed to show why her defamation and conspiracy claims are credible and that her statements are "scandalous, frivolous and vexatious."

On the defamation allegation, she claims Giorno defamed her because he participated in the drafting and delivery of a letter sent by Novak, on behalf of Harper, to the RCMP. According to court documents, the letter advised the RCMP that Harper's office had become aware of allegations of criminal activity concerning conduct by Guergis and her husband, Rahim Jaffer.

Giorno's motion says that letter is protected by privilege and that it entailed matters of state because they involved a cabinet minister.

"In addition to privilege, the statements found in the communication to the RCMP Commissioner are not defamatory. They constitute a report to the police of serious allegations of criminal activity," the motion says.

The substance of the allegations has never been explained by Harper or his office but the RCMP did not find any wrongdoing by Guergis or her husband and said there was no substance to the allegations.

Guergis, who represented the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey, also alleged that Giorno, Harper and Novak acted maliciously by not providing a copy of the letter to her, an argument Giorno rejects.

Harper had right to remove Guergis from cabinet

The motion says Giorno, Novak and Harper were made aware of allegations about Guergis by Hamilton and that conveying the information to the RCMP "was the appropriate course of conduct."

Guergis's lawsuit says allegations about fraud, extortion, prostitution and other criminal behaviour were brought to Hamilton by Derrick Snowdy, a private investigator who is also named in the lawsuit. It also says that Hamilton defamed her when he allegedly told others that she had used cocaine and that there was video evidence of her snorting cocaine off the breast of a prostitute. Guergis's lawsuit says she has never used cocaine or engaged in any other criminal activity and that no video evidence exists.

When the unproven allegations became public Guergis stepped down from cabinet and left the Conservative caucus. She says in her lawsuit that she was pressured to resign by Harper and did so "under duress."

Giorno's motion says that "the removal or resignation" of Guergis was the right thing to do and does not constitute misfeasance in public office.

Guergis, who was minister of state for the status of women, left cabinet when the controversy erupted in April 2010. She sat as an Independent MP and was not allowed to run as a Conservative candidate in the next election. She ran independently and lost her seat to Conservative Kellie Leitch.

The motion says Harper "had an unfettered right to remove Guergis" and that she had no right to remain in cabinet, but it also says that in any case, she "was not removed but resigned."

A few lines later, the motion reads that "the removal of Guergis from Cabinet, particularly in the face of these allegations, cannot constitute misfeasance in public office."

"Instead, her removal as a Cabinet Minister was proper under the circumstances."

Harper's lawyer, Robert Staley, wouldn't comment on the case on Wednesday to confirm whether the prime minister intends to join Giorno's bid to have the case dismissed. He is also representing Raitt, Novak, and Glover.

Staley is a Toronto-based lawyer with the firm Bennett Jones and NDP MP Charlie Angus says he's concerned taxpayers are going to be left with a huge legal bill over what was "a very distasteful exchange between the prime minister and Miss Guergis."

"We have Justice Department lawyers who are paid to do this work, who are fully equipped. Now we're being told they're not qualified, they had to go to the private sector," he said after question period. Angus wants to know how much the lawyer is costing taxpayers.


  • This story was edited from an earlier version that incorrectly referred to Ray Novak as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former principal secretary. Novak, in fact, currently holds the position.
    May 09, 2012 3:33 PM ET