Ontario PC leader says he will ignore premier’s threat of defamation lawsuit

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TORONTO — Ontario’s Opposition leader says he plans to ignore a libel notice from Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne took another step toward a defamation lawsuit against Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown last week after he refused to retract comments suggesting she is personally on trial.

Wynne’s lawyer first demanded in a letter last month 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.

Brown had 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.”

After receiving the original letter from Wynne’s lawyer, Brown said he would “ignore her baseless legal threat,” and now after receiving the follow-up notice of libel, he says his position is unchanged.

A letter today from Brown’s lawyer to Wynne’s says his statements weren’t defamatory and he will not be “distracted” from his duty as Opposition leader.

“Mr. Brown’s remarks were fair comment on your client’s calculated decision to publicly involve herself in the bribery trial of her former deputy chief of staff and a Liberal fundraiser,” Jonathan Lisus writes.

“It is regrettable that the premier’s response to discussion of this government’s ethical record is to consume Ontario’s scarce judicial resources through libel actions.”

Lisus writes that if Wynne intends on following through with her legal threat, lawyers on both sides should agree to an expedited timetable to get a lawsuit to a public hearing as soon as possible.

Wynne’s lawyers had also warned Brown that he must preserve all relevant documents on the matter, because if Wynne proceeds with a lawsuit he will be required to disclose them all.

Brown’s lawyer called that “the height of irony” given that two former Liberal staffers — from ex-premier Dalton McGuinty’s office — are currently on trial over allegedly deleted documents.

The Canadian Press