Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/5/2008 (3030 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Am I wrong, or are more and more people in politics resorting to defamation lawsuits?In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
sent a letter threatening legal action and asking for an apology from Liberal Leader Stephane Dion
, who accused a Harper aide of peddling influence in a dispute between a Montreal real estate company and the federal government.Harper then filed a $2.5-million suit against the Liberals for statements made about allegations the Tories tried to buy the support of dying independent MP Chuck Cadman
to win a vote of non-confidence.In New Brunswick, Tory opposition leader Jeanott Volpe
has sent a letter of intent to sue the province's health minister, Mike Murphy
, for defamation. Murphy accused Volpe of hijacking her own caucus to sustain a fillibuster on a key government bill.Now, we have word
from Powell River, B.C., a small Sunshine Coast city, that the mayor has threatened a lawsuit against two citizens who publicly criticized his handling of a contentious plan to borrow $6.5 million to improve the community's harbour. A campaign opposing the harbour project raised concerns about how the city was surveying its residents about whether to borrow the money.As the criticism of the project grew, Mayor Stewart Alsgard
sent two citizens letters threatening a defamation suit. The BC Civil Liberties Association has responded by filing a law suit against the city for attempting to chill citizens engaged in legiatimate democratic action by threatening legal actionHaving been the subject of legal threats and lawsuits, it's not a pleasant experience. Anyone who may need to make allegations of a sensitive nature in the commission of their professional duties has come to expect legal threats as part of the normal course of business. But generally, politicians have refrained from suing other politicians, and certainly politicians suing citizens is, while not unprecedented, still rare.Although politicians deserve to be protected from defamatory commentary as much as the next person, the decision to launch a lawsuit is not one to be taken lightly. First and foremost, politicians, especially those in government, have access to virtually limitless resources for legal fees. In many cases, these resources dwarf the resources of the people being sued. The absence of any kind of a level playing field must be considered when expending taxpayer money for this form of political defense.It would be better to enforce some sort of noble rules of engagement in politics that eliminates any possibility of politicians taking liberties with the reputation of other politicians. Unfortunately, if you consider the tenor of debate in Ottawa, that appears to be a somewhat Utopian concept right now.Politicians are often unfairly criticized, but they also have direct access to the media to not only defend themselves but undermine the arguments of their detractors. Let's leave the fight where it belongs, in the court of public opinion.-30-