$6M libel case against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tossed
Judge questions plaintiff’s credibility
TORONTO • An Ontario Superior Court judge has tossed a $6-million libel suit against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, saying there is “serious doubt” about the credibility of the restaurateur who launched it.
George Foulidis, who runs the controversial Boardwalk Café on prime waterfront land, was suing Ford, then a councillor running for the mayoralty, and another former candidate for municipal office, Bruce Baker.
Judge John Macdonald crisply dismissed both actions in separate decisions released Thursday.
The judge found that when Ford said the city’s untendered, 20-year deal with the café stank to high heaven and smacked of corruption, he wasn’t accusing anyone, merely voicing a suspicion.
Ford made the remarks in a lengthy meeting with the editorial board of the Toronto Sun. The newspaper wasn’t sued.
And about Baker, who had sent city council a letter from someone else accusing Foulidis of improperly influencing the city to secure the deal, Macdonald said Baker had as a candidate some qualified privilege, was acting in the public interest, and that other comments he made in the letter were covered by the defence of fair comment.
But the judge’s most damning remarks came in a section of the Ford decision where he dealt with Foulidis’s testimony at trial last month.
He noted that another court had found Foulidis “was the person primarily responsible for moving” some of his family’s assets — the finding, upheld on appeal in 2005, was that his family had participated in what’s called a “fraudulent conveyance” — and said Foulidis at first “denied his participation in the fraud.”
“He eventually admitted it, reluctantly, after reasons for judgment of this court and further reasons for judgment of the Court of Appeal … were put to him,” Macdonald wrote.
The judge concluded Foulidis “attempted to mislead this court about his past fraudulent conduct.
“Having considered this in the context of the whole of the evidence, I am left with serious doubt about the credibility and reliability of his testimony.”
It was a sharp rebuke to the 53-year-old Foulidis, who had testified he was deeply offended by Ford’s remarks in the Sun and felt his reputation as an honest and reputable businessman had been seriously injured. He even grew teary in the witness stand as he remembered being asked by his young daughter if he had done something wrong.
The judge declined to “infer any connection” between what Ford had told the Sun and Foulidis’s “assertion that his daughter had asked him a troubling question.”
In a final swipe at the strength of the case before him, the judge made a provisional finding on general damages, which would apply only if his decision were to be overturned at appeal and a higher court found he was wrong.
Again referring to Foulidis’s “participation in a fraud” in 2004, Macdonald assessed general damages at $20,000, a far cry from $6 million.