Ontario’s premier took another step toward a defamation lawsuit against the province’s Opposition leader Friday after he refused to retract comments suggesting she is personally on trial.
Kathleen Wynne’s lawyer demanded in a letter last month that Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick 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 lawyer’s letter, Brown said he would “ignore her baseless legal threat.” When asked to explain why, he said it was a “sad day for Ontario” to see the premier “debased” and “humiliated” by testifying in court.
Wynne’s lawyers followed up Friday with another letter to Brown saying it constitutes a notice of libel.
Brown’s comments about the premier being debased and humiliated are another defamation, her lawyers wrote.
“Our letter of September 13, 2017 was intended to provide you with an opportunity to partially mitigate the damage you have done with a retraction, an apology, and an undertaking to refrain from making any further defamatory statements about Premier Wynne,” Jack Siegel and Sheldon Inkol wrote.
“Not only did you refuse to make a retraction or to apologize, you chose to compound the problem by making further defamatory statements. Accordingly, a legal action will now be commenced against you for defamation.”
Brown’s status as leader of the Progressive Conservatives increased the likelihood that his statements would be repeated by others, therefore “increasing the potential harm to the premier’s reputation,” the lawyers wrote.
The “stubborn refusal” to retract the comments has put Brown on the hook for potential aggravated and punitive damages, the lawyers wrote.
They warn Brown that he must preserve all relevant documents, because if Wynne proceeds with a lawsuit he will be required to disclose them all.
Brown’s office has not yet indicated how he will respond to the libel notice.