Opposition leader refuses to apologize for contentious comments about Election Act trial
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. (Canadian Press)
Ontario’s Opposition leader is brushing off a defamation lawsuit the premier has launched against him as a political stunt — increasing the likelihood the dispute will drag on through the June election.
Premier Kathleen Wynne sued Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown this week for comments he made in September that her lawyers say wrongly characterized the premier as being on trial.
Wynne said Tuesday that she would drop the lawsuit if he simply said he was sorry.
“This whole situation could be resolved with a simple apology if Patrick Brown just apologized for what everyone has acknowledged was an untrue statement,” she said. “But in the absence of that we are simply moving forward in order to be able to continue the process. I still remain hopeful that he will apologize and that will be the end of it.”
That outcome seemed unlikely Tuesday, as Brown declined to apologize.
“The only person who should be apologizing is Kathleen Wynne for these stunts, these theatrics,” Brown said. “I’ve made it very clear and abundantly clear that it was her closest adviser who was on trial in Sudbury.”
The legal action stems from comments Brown made a day before Wynne testified as a witness at a trial in Sudbury, involving two provincial Liberals — including Wynne’s deputy chief of staff — facing Election Act bribery charges. The pair was ultimately acquitted.
Brown told reporters he hoped Wynne would give answers about the scandal “maybe when she stands trial” and went on to describe her as a “sitting premier, sitting in trial.”
The premier was not on trial and had waived parliamentary privilege in order to testify as a witness, her lawyers note.
Brown himself had still not been served with the statement of claim as of Tuesday afternoon, his office said.
“If it wasn’t a stunt then why didn’t they provide that to me?” Brown said. “I don’t respond to diversion tactics.”
Brown’s lawyer has called for the premier to agree to an expedited timetable for the lawsuit, so it can be brought to a public hearing as quickly as possible. Wynne countered Tuesday that there was an even quicker option available.
“The most expeditious timeline would be for him to simply step up to a mic and say he was sorry,” she said.
Wynne’s statement of claim seeks $100,000 in general, aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages. Brown’s statements harmed Wynne’s reputation, her lawyers wrote.
Wynne previously sued the former Progressive Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, and another Tory member of parliament after the pair said she oversaw the destruction of documents related to two cancelled gas plants.
That lawsuit was resolved in 2015, though it is not known whether it was settled or withdrawn.