Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Liberal Libel Case Proceeds

When the dust settles on Harper's libel suit against the Liberals, it may well be one of his "biggest mistakes". Today, the court action proceeded, with the Liberals asking for the case to be heard by a jury:
In a statement of defence filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday, the Liberal Party of Canada says Harper's claim should be dismissed, arguing his legal action is a "fundamental attack on the freedom of political expression."

They also ask that "this action be tried by a jury."

In their statement of claim, the Liberals defend the articles, saying they were published without malice, are of public interest and that criticism of the government is protected under the Charter.

"The reports were published in good faith and in accordance with the Defendants' legal, moral, social and profession duties to engage legitimate public debate," the statement of claim says.

According to the statement of claim, the Liberals "expressly" deny that the words are defamatory of Harper, but if they are, then they are "true or substantially true."

As well, the Liberals deny Harper has suffered damage to his reputation and reject the damages he's seeking as "excessive, exaggerated, remote."

But they add that if Harper's reputation was damaged, then he brought it upon himself for refusing to answer questions about the controversy.

This suit just keeps the story in the news, every item involves a rehash of Cadman, leaving open questions. On top of that, Harper's suit has virtually no support, outside of the Conservative base, it's a loser politically:
Only three in 10 Canadians think Prime Minster Stephen Harper would be right to sue Stephane Dion and other Liberals for publishing the allegations on the party's official website.

On the question of how to deal with the allegations, a solid majority of those polled - 62 per cent - said "these matters should be kept out of the courts."

Source Ipsos Reid

In going to court, while simultaneously refusing to answer questions, Harper loses a measure of credibility. The Liberal defence asks a good question, if Harper is so concerned about his integrity, why isn't he forthcoming? Conservatives would argue that Harper has every right to sue, this isn't a political consideration. I would argue that this move was entirely political, the bully tactic, employed to "chill" the Liberals. It fits very nicely with standard policy.

In reality, outside of the partisans, this case just makes Harper look like a baby, who can dish it out, but apparently can't take it. Don't expect the public to endorse a process which unnecessarily bleeds taxpayer money, on a question which Harper has failed to publicly settle. I have a feeling, if the Conservatives could turn back time, they would never have chosen this particular path. Just wait until we start seeing "witnesses".


Jay said...

It won't shake the core of the conservatives base though. Can't you just hear the claims of Liberal judges and the jury being from Ontario are just biased because everyone knows Ontario's full of liberals. And on and on ad nauseum.

So very predictable and juvenile, or in other words, So "Poilievre".

Anonymous said...

Well Jay, this is something that you and I can agree on ;)

BTW - Since (on borges blog) you call yourself 'The Real Jay' and I concede you have a longer history on liblogs and are a liberal - I suppose I should change up my user name a bit. Cheers - Anon for now (aka Jay)

Koby said...

MPs can not be sued for what they say in the House, but MPs can not use this privilege to insulate themselves against libel by simply quoting what they said in the House. Lawmakers did not want any bootstrapping. That is why when Ken Dryden read out what he said in the House word for word it actually meant something. News organizations, on the other hand, are free to quote what was said in the House without fear of libel. Where this relates back to the blogsephere is the Liberals are asserting that the two articles in question are “news” articles and as such protected from libel and Harper is asserting just the opposite. If the courts conclude that these articles, even though they bare a healthy family resemblance to any news article out there on the subject, are not news, then it is but a hop skip and jump to saying that any blogger who happens to quote Ignatieff's words is also open to libel.

Dante said...

Will Dion now issue a public apology for launching a lawsuit against Duceppe or is he allowed to be a hypocrite? I can't wait for that one to come up in a debate.

Anonymous said...

Can you just imagine the law suits the Liberals could file against the Tories with all the crap they've yapped about - be interesting to look at old scrums/political shows....my, my, my.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

Dante: Duceppe published and distributed a pamphlet linking Dion to crimes AFTER it an inquiry concluded that Dion was not involved in the said criminal activity. Get the difference?

In the case of Cadman, the Liberals repeated comments made by the Cadman family and by Stephen Harper, and comments made in the House.

Steve V said...

"Will Dion now issue a public apology for launching a lawsuit against Duceppe or is he allowed to be a hypocrite? I can't wait for that one to come up in a debate."

Man, you guys are a bore. Can you just once address the issue at hand, without bringing up something else as distraction?

Steve V said...

Here's another article on the same theme:

Parliamentary expert Ned Franks, professor emeritus at Queen's University, said the government is either "trying to shut MPs up" or is so insecure that it runs to the courts when faced with difficult political situations. One way or the other "it has a chilling effect . . . that is not in the Canadian tradition," Franks said in an interview.

Mark Francis said...

The Dion libel suit, was settled, and hardly matches the extraordinary example of a PM suing the Opposition Party for what ammounts to republishing Hansard.

It is undisputed fact that Harper was told by Donna Cadman a long time ago of the bribe attempt. What did Harper do? He _immediately_ claimed it wasn't true.


What we do know for sure is that for over two years Harper sat on the explosive allegation that a member of parliament was offered a bribe.

Harper still refuses to answer key questions about the matter.

It is the Opposition's job to push and to accuise and publicly speculate. Falling short of that fails the public interest.

If Harper has a full rebuttal, then let him go on record!

Otherwise, he should suffer the slings and arrows.

Libel law in Canada drastivally needs to be reformed. Every other English-speaking country has enacted laws preventing people like Harper from chilling speech in the public interest.

Steve V said...

"Libel law in Canada drastivally needs to be reformed. Every other English-speaking country has enacted laws preventing people like Harper from chilling speech in the public interest."

Mark, you know better than anyone, but I think we might be reaching critical mass on this subject. The stuff with the Ethics Committee, and Holland, is starting to get MP's attention. Nothing will happen with this bunch, obviously, but it will be interesting to see if someone else takes an official position.

Tomm said...


The Liberal Party of Canada continues with its sniping and cheap shots knowing full well that the Tories will respond with the same level of vitriol, but the media will only prod and poke the Tory wounds and allow the LPC to leave the field of battle with no public scars.

Rather than being happy about this, you should be worried that the media doesn't end up turning on their master.

Already we've seen numerous examples of the media picking its issues. Last week 7,000 people marched in Ottawa and CBC did not run a single story about it. Not a one. Two one armed lesbians in Toronto decide to adopt a kid, run into a bit of bureaucracy, and its the lead story.

On topic, I'm pleased the LPC selected a Jury trial, tells me they are in it for the media exposure, and not the truth.

Beware the Ides of March.


Steve V said...

"but the media will only prod and poke the Tory wounds"

Did you live in a cave, with no access to media, prior to 2006??? Come on.

Oh, and if the Cons were interested in the "truth", why not come forward, instead of hiding behind Moore?? Be forthcoming, you might have a point, complete silence, truth is a casualty. The Tories are hiding behind the legal system, a common pattern it seems.