Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario PCs File Notice to Defend against Premier's $2-Million Libel Suit

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario PCs File Notice to Defend against Premier's $2-Million Libel Suit

Article excerpt

Tories file notice to defend in libel suit

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TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives served notice Thursday they intend to "vigorously defend themselves" against a $2-million libel suit filed by Premier Kathleen Wynne, calling it an attempt to muzzle the Opposition.

"We're not backing down," said PC energy critic Lisa MacLeod. "We're going to continue to ask the tough questions."

The suit stems from Opposition Leader Tim Hudak's comments suggesting that Wynne "oversaw and possibly ordered the criminal destruction of documents'' related to the $1.1-billion cancellation of two gas plants prior to the 2011 election.

"The public knows what this is; it's an attempt to silence the Opposition, and we're not going to be silenced," said MacLeod, who was named in the libel suit along with Hudak and the PC Ontario Fund.

"There is a lot of support for Tim and I because we're asking the tough questions, trying to get to a billion-dollar scandal and why that happened."

Lawyers for the Tories filed a notice of intent to defend in the libel suit, saying the Conservatives don't believe any of their comments "constitute actionable defamation" of Wynne.

"All of the statements about which your client complains are clearly within the recognized privileges protecting freedom of speech, particularly where it concerns matters of public importance within a necessary and vital public debate," wrote Robert Rueter of Rueter, Scargall, Bennett on behalf of the Conservatives.

Wynne claimed in an open letter March 30 that Hudak knew his accusations about her alleged involvement in the wiping of computer hard drives were false and not supported by evidence, and demanded he apologize and retract the comments.

But the Tory notice of intent to defend said it was Wynne's "deliberate release" of her open letter that "attracted and intensified media coverage" of the very statements about which she is complaining in her libel suit.

"The fact that the premier has made this a media issue has ensured that the comments and the tweets would have received a much larger audience than had they just been said in the halls here at Queen's Park," said MacLeod. …

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