Woodstock threatened with lawsuit

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A public spat between two Winnipeg mayoral candidates at a seniors forum has sparked the threat of a lawsuit.

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A public spat between two Winnipeg mayoral candidates at a seniors forum has sparked the threat of a lawsuit.

Don Woodstock has been threatened with a defamation suit over comments he made about the local construction industry in reference to the brother of opponent Jenny Motkaluk.

Hours after the two clashed at the forum in East Kildonan this week, Woodstock was threatened with legal action by civil litigator Robert Tapper, who stated in an email to Woodstock that he’s been retained by Bayview Construction Ltd.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayoral candidate Don Woodstock (right) has been threatened with a defamation suit over comments he made about the local construction industry in reference to the brother of opponent Jenny Motaklauk (left).

Motkaluk’s brother, John Motkaluk, is one of the founders and vice-president of Bayview Construction. During the forum, Woodstock repeated his concerns about a conflict of interest at city hall if Motkaluk were to become mayor given her brother’s position in the large construction firm, which has bid on municipal projects.

Shortly after the forum Wednesday, Woodstock asked Motkaluk how she’d “rein in” her brother if she’s elected. Later, when Woodstock talked about her brother again, Motkaluk and her team walked out of the event; she said she was “tired of the slander.”

In an email provided to the Free Press by Woodstock, Tapper warned him he could face a lawsuit.

“I have reviewed the video of your speaking this afternoon to a number of people. You gave a speech to quite a large number of people in which you , implied, by innuendo, Bayview was providing either falsely price work or bribes to the City of Winnipeg in order to receive contracts. This is an outrageous and defamatory statement by you and very clearly defamatory. Please take notice that a lawsuit will be brought against you shortly on behalf of Jon Motkaluk personally, and by implication, Bayview Construction Ltd., and its other owners,” Tapper wrote in the email.

“As indicated above, you are now on notice. Any further statements of the sort made by you will result in much larger damages.”

Tapper declined to comment. As of Friday morning, Bayview hadn’t filed legal action against Woodstock in Manitoba’s Court of King’s Bench. Jenny Motkaluk also declined to comment.

Woodstock said he was “shocked” to be threatened with a lawsuit and doesn’t believe what he said was defamatory. He said he’s repeatedly tried to raise questions about how Jenny Motkaluk would handle the appearance of a conflict of interest, and should be allowed to do so in a public discussion with other candidates.

“We have to have that ability to have that kind of conversation out in the general public, no matter what,” Woodstock said.

During Wednesday’s forum, Woodstock asked Motkaluk how she’d “rein in” her brother as one of the largest contractors in the city. Motkaluk responded she was proud of her brother for starting the business with his partners out of high school and growing it into a “wildly successful” construction firm.

The business became a “success story without having a sister in the mayor’s chair,” Motkaluk said during the forum. “I think they’re going to do just fine, Don, and they will be subject to all the same rules and requirements that every other supplier in the city of Winnipeg gets.”

Later, Woodstock mentioned Motkaluk’s brother again in response to an unrelated question about recycling crushed rock to fill and pave roads.

“The only reason why we keep buying back (crushed rock) at $40 a ton is because we have to make people like Jenny’s brother money,” Woodstock said, angering Motkaluk and her campaign team. Motkaluk and Woodstock talked over each other in front of the crowd, and then Motkaluk and her team walked out.

The legal threat arrived in Woodstock’s inbox that evening.

katie.may@winnipegfreepress.com

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

History

Updated on Saturday, September 10, 2022 9:45 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Motkaluk

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