Gregor Robertson and Geoff Meggs libel suit against Kirk LaPointe raises intriguing questions
It's never fun being sued for defamation.
But it occasionally happens during political campaigns.
In 2005, Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Jim Green and council candidate Heather Deal filed a libel suit against sex-trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton and federal Conservative rabble rouser Ryan Warawa.
During the recent Ontario election, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne sued her Conservative rival, Tim Hudak, Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod, and the PC Ontario Fund for defamation.
And today, Vision Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs filed a lawsuit against NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe and his party, the NPA.
The notice of civil claim alleges that beginning around October 20, "the defendants embarked upon a premeditated campaign to discredit the plaintiffs and their campaigns for re-election by way of a series of defamatory statements".
LaPointe and the NPA have used the words "corrupt deal" and made other highly critical statements to describe a union's political donation to Vision Vancouver.
The plaintiffs say that this characterization is malicious and falsely suggests that the two Vision politicians are dishonest, can't be trusted, and that they breached their fiduciary duty to the citizens.
The issue has arisen during mayoral debates, including one on Shaw TV on October 27.
"I actually now don't believe that the largest issue is housing affordability," LaPointe claimed during the broadcast. "I believe that there is evidence of a problem inside our government. Evidence of deals that have been made."
Robertson, on the other hand, has said that housing affordability is the biggest issue in the election campaign.
The allegations by Robertson and Meggs have not been proven in court and neither LaPointe nor the NPA has filed a statement of defence.
In the meantime, this lawsuit raises intriguing questions.
• What effect will this have on LaPointe's willingness to continue alleging there was a "corrupt deal"?
• Will news outlets keep repeating these allegations of LaPointe and the NPA in light of the defamation claim?
• If Meggs and LaPointe both lose and Meggs chooses to continue his lawsuit after the election, will the NPA cover LaPointe's legal bills?
• Will LaPointe and the NPA file a counterclaim against Robertson and Meggs?
• If this case goes to trial, will the disclosure process mean that the public gets to see the confidential email correspondence of the politicians involved?
If Meggs and Robertson cruise to reelection, this case will likely never reach the courtroom.
However, if Meggs is the only Vision Vancouver council candidate to go down to defeat, things could get very messy in the years to come.
Meggs will be able to claim that he has lost something of value after serving two terms on council. And it will be up to LaPointe and the NPA to prove that they engaged in responsible communication or what they said was true.
That's because under Canadian defamation law, the burden of proof always rests with the defendants.
You can't just say anything without being able to back it up.
On the plus side...
Nov 6, 2014 at 4:07pm
We'll get to see just how 'open', 'transparent' and 'accountable' Kirk LaPointe really plans to be.
Nov 6, 2014 at 4:08pm
Kirk Lapointe is willing to say anything. No plan for the city, but he likes to tear others down.
Nov 6, 2014 at 4:18pm
Hmmm, this reeks of desperation on Vision's part. I think this was a bad decision to sue. Political parties attack each other all the time. Vision has been pretty vicious attacking their opponents over the years. Now it appears that they can dish it out, but can't take it. Stop being crybabies and get on with the election and forget this nonsense. It just gives even MORE attention to the NPA's claims. Bad decision.
Nov 6, 2014 at 4:38pm
Not sure why Vision is crying given the whiney ads they are running about LaPointe. Sounds like someone can't handle the heat. Imagine if every politician cried libel during elections, the courts would be tied up for decades. Suck it up Robertson don't be such a pussy.
Nov 6, 2014 at 4:56pm
Charlie - re "You can't just say anything without being able to back it up." There's a tape. What more back up is needed?
Nov 6, 2014 at 5:02pm
Disagree MannyHo....if you accuse someone of being 'corrupt', you better be prepared to back it up. I'll give you odds the ads get pulled.
Nov 6, 2014 at 5:20pm
All Kirk has to do is walk into the courtroom and play the recording and then walk out.
Nov 6, 2014 at 5:44pm
Hahaha... CRYBABY GREGOR? Can't take the heat?
In related news, it was just revealed that Vision received $1.5 Million from developers, $350K from Unions, $100K from Keg Restaurant owner, and more... If promising Unions "not to contract out" to get $350K is not doing favorism, I don't know what is!
This is actually a very interesting development and shows that Vision is maybe afraid of losing this, despite being so much ahead in the polls? Interesting...
Wag the dog
Nov 6, 2014 at 5:56pm
Same day they release their donations, they drop a writ? Please.
Nov 6, 2014 at 6:15pm
The latest NPA attack ad makes some bold declarations about the ethics of Mayor Robertson and Councillor Meggs in contrast to the tame ads from Vision. Don't feel for Kirky LaPointe, his bully billionaire backers got him covered, he can make any claim he wants.