Ontario premier, Opposition leader in standoff over comments made about Wynne
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, Ont., involving two Liberals facing Election Act bribery charges.
Her lawyers sent Brown a letter demanding he withdraw comments that suggested 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” by testifying 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. “My letter stands. It speaks for itself.”
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 bribery 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.
This is the second time in a week that the Liberal government has threatenedlegalactionoverremarks made by a Progressive Conservative member of the provincial 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.
TORONTO — The man heading up Ontario’s effort to lure Amazon to the province said Thursday that while the province would consider sensible incentives, the bid will not offer billions in subsidies to the tech giant.
Providing large taxpayer subsidies to the firm wouldn’t be fair to other companies that have set up shop in Ontario with little or no government assistance, said Ed Clark, who was appointed last week by Premier Kathleen Wynne to head up the Greater Toronto Region’s bid to become the home of Amazon’s new corporate headquarters.
The region’s bid to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will highlight other strengths such as the province’s skilled workforce, Clark said, adding that the province would be willing to make other contributions like helping the company secure land.
“There are clearly places in the United States that will, I use the word, bribe, people to come,” he said. “(They) say you just tell us what cheque you want us to write, we will write that cheque. We’re not in that business.”
If that’s what Amazon is looking for, Ontario will not win, said Clark, who retired as an executive with TD Bank in 2014.
“But we have proven people are coming to Toronto right now, and to Ontario, because we’ve just got fantastic people.”
The online retail giant announced earlier this month that it is hunting for a second North American office, saying it would spend $5 billion to build the new headquarters to house as many as 50,000 employees.
The company said it wants to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to more than 740,000 square metres in the next decade.