Brown re­jects ‘base­less’ legal threat from Wynne

The London Free Press - - REGION - AL­LI­SON JONES AND PAOLA LORIG­GIO THE CANA­DIAN PRESS Brown

TORONTO — On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne was con­sid­er­ing her legal op­tions Thurs­day af­ter the Op­po­si­tion leader re­fused to re­tract com­ments that she warned could lead to a defama­tion law­suit.

Wynne’s open­ing shot to Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Pa­trick Brown came Wed­nes­day, min­utes be­fore she tes­ti­fied as a wit­ness in a trial in Sud­bury in­volv­ing two Lib­er­als fac­ing Elec­tion Act bribery charges.

Her lawyers sent Brown a let­ter de­mand­ing he with­draw com­ments sug­gest­ing Wynne is per­son­ally on trial and apol­o­gize.

The next day, Brown made it clear he wouldn’t be do­ing ei­ther. He re­sponded to mul­ti­ple ques­tions about why by re­peat­ing that it was a “sad day for On­tario” to see the pre­mier “hu­mil­i­ated” in court.

“No one wants to see a sit­ting pre­mier de­based,” he said. “I think it’s im­por­tant that we move on.”

Brown called the legal threat “base­less,” even though Wynne pre­vi­ously sued Brown’s pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Tim Hu­dak.

“I will ig­nore her base­less threat,” he said.

Wynne, speak­ing to The Cana­dian Press in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., wouldn’t say whether she will pro­ceed with a law­suit. “We’ll see what hap­pens,” she said. Wynne said her lawyers are dis­cussing the next steps, while they said they’re await­ing in­struc­tions from her.

Jack Siegel, Wynne’s lawyer, called Brown’s re­sponse “ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing.”

“Fair po­lit­i­cal crit­i­cism is one thing, but as a pub­lic fig­ure him­self, one might have thought that he would rec­og­nize that un­truths that de­fame an­other politi­cian are un­ac­cept­able,” Siegel said in a state­ment.

Brown’s of­fice had pre­vi­ously sug­gested he mis­spoke. Siegel ques­tioned why Brown wouldn’t just re­tract the com­ments if that was the case.

“Mr. Brown’s re­fusal to take that sim­ple step there­fore sug­gests that this was not an ac­ci­dent and that his re­marks were de­lib­er­ately made with the in­ten­tion of harm­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of the pre­mier,” Siegel wrote.

At is­sue are com­ments Brown made Tues­day about the pre­mier’s role in the case.

“I hope that the pre­mier will give us answers, maybe when she stands trial,” he said. “That in it­self is as­ton­ish­ing, that we’ve got a sit­ting pre­mier, sit­ting in trial an­swer­ing ques­tions about these al­le­ga­tions of bribery, that in it­self is as­ton­ish­ing of (how) far this gov­ern­ment has fallen.”

Wynne is not on trial or even un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but of­fered vol­un­tary tes­ti­mony, her lawyers noted. Wynne could have used par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege to avoid tes­ti­fy­ing.

The Tories had ques­tioned who footed the bills for two staffers to travel to Sud­bury with Wynne, as well as for Siegel to draft the legal threat to Brown. Deputy pre­mier Deb Matthews said the Lib­eral party paid for both. The party is also pay­ing the legal bills of Sor­bara, Lougheed and the pre­mier.

This is the sec­ond time in a week the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has threat­ened legal ac­tion over re­marks made by a PC mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture about the Sud­bury trial.

Last week, Bill Walker told a ra­dio sta­tion Wynne was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and fac­ing charges in con­nec­tion with the bribery trial. He is­sued a state­ment apol­o­giz­ing for the re­marks.

With files from Shawn Jef­fords in Toronto and Alexan­der Panetta in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne arrives at the Elec­tion Act bribery trial in Sud­bury Wed­nes­day. Wynne’s lawyers have de­manded an apol­ogy from the Op­po­si­tion leader for com­ments he made.

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