Premier gives Tory leader extension on ‘trial’ retraction
Brown vows ‘baseless lawsuit’ threat will be ignored, wants to move on from incident
Premier Kathleen Wynne is giving Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown six weeks to retract his false statement that she is on “trial” in the Sudbury byelection bribery case. Wynne, who had threatened to serve Brown with a libel suit if he had not apologized by 5 p.m. Thursday, has extended that deadline until Oct. 24.
“Earlier this week, Patrick Brown made a statement about the premier that was false and defamatory,” Jennifer Beaudry, the premier’s director of media relations, wrote in an email Friday.
“His conduct in the days following his remarks has been just as disappointing. As a public figure, he should recognize that defaming another politician is unacceptable,” Beaudry wrote.
“While Patrick Brown refuses to apologize, we are encouraged that media coverage and public discussion over the last 48 hours has covered just how wrong and misleading his comments were,” she added.
“We continue to consider all of our options at this point in time and will govern ourselves by the timelines set out in the Libel and Slander Act.”
That provincial law states a notice of defamation must be served “within six weeks after the alleged libel has come to the plaintiff’s knowledge.”
On Tuesday, Brown said Ontario had “a sitting premier sitting in trial” and that Wynne “stands trial” in Sudbury.
His comments came as the premier was testifying as a Crown witness in a Sudbury courtroom where Patricia Sorbara, her former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial for alleged Election Act violations. Both Sorbara and Lougheed deny any wrongdoing.
Nicholas Bergamini, Brown’s press secretary, said Wynne’s legal “threats will be ignored.”
“We as a province need to put this ugly chapter behind us and move on,” Bergamini wrote in an email later Friday.
Brown has dismissed her appearance in court as “a sorry spectacle” and has declined to correct his misstatement.
“Regrettably, Kathleen Wynne compounded the problem by this threat of a lawsuit. Her baseless lawsuit will be ignored,” the Tory leader said Thursday.
His refusal to set the record straight had Deb Matthews, the deputy premier, accusing him of bringing Trump-style politics to Ontario.
“There is a principle in Canada that you do not make defamatory, misleading comments about another political leader,” Matthews said.
“In Canada, we actually expect people to be honest. There is, south of the border, a change in that culture. I do not want to see that change coming to Canada,” she said.
“He’s a lawyer; he knows exactly what he did. He knows that he said something that was not true about the premier.”
Wynne’s lawyer, Jack Siegel, said, “This conduct by Patrick Brown is extremely disappointing.”
On Wednesday, he served Brown with a letter stating that he “made a statement about the premier of Ontario that is false and defamatory.”
“Contrary to your statement, Premier Wynne is not standing trial. Your statement is false and misleading and appears to have been made with the intention to harm the reputation of Ms. Wynne,” the lawyer wrote.
Last week, Tory MPP Bill Walker (Bruce- Grey- Owen Sound) was forced to apologize for comments he made on AM640 radio station in Toronto when he erroneously said the premier was under investigation by police.