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.