Eli Ridder | Report
Opposition and Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer revealed on Sunday that he was hit with a defamation lawsuit from the prime minister regarding comments he made about the SNC-Lavalin affair at the end of March.
The letter from Justin Trudeau’s lawyer criticized what they called inappropriate comments in a statement made by Scheer on Mar. 29 in response to new documents tabled in the justice committee from former minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“The statement contained highly defamatory comments about Prime Minister Trudeau,” the letter reads. Scheer’s comments in March came amidst a fallout within the Liberal Party.
Trudeau has been under fire for the last two months over allegations that there was pressure on ex-attorney general Wilson-Raybould to interfere in criminal proceedings against Quebec construction firm SNC-Lavalin.
In an appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, she said top government officials asked her to help ensure a deferred prosecution agreement was extended to the company.
Trudeau ally Gerald Butts, who resigned from the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this year, defended the prime minister by saying there was no intentional inappropriate pressure on Wilson-Raybould to protest SNC-Lavalin.
The former cabinet minister later provided emails, a written statement and a taped recording to the committee with the top civil servant that appeared to back her part of the story where she insisted she warned PMO officials that their actions were inappropriate.
Scheer’s March statement, in part, accused the prime minister of “political interference”, of lying to Canadians and of corrupt conduct, to which the Trudeau legal camp said the Tory leader made false statements, and refers to the Libel and Slander Act of Ontario, which deals with “publicly published material” or comments that defame or disparage an individual or their profession — and is often used involving media stories.
“The prime minister supports wide-ranging and vigorous political debate on matters of public policy. However, your statement, in its entirety, is beyond the pale of fair debate and is libellous of my client personally and in the way of his occupation as prime minister,” Trudeau lawyer Julian Porter writes in his letter.
In response, Andrew Scheer’s lawyer said that the lawsuit has no merit and the leader himself defended his actions on social media, saying he “won’t back down” on Facebook, adding that “I stand by every single criticism I have made of Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in this scandal” on Twitter.
“Why do I welcome Justin Trudeau’s lawsuit? 1) Because he will finally be forced to testify under oath. 2) He will not be able to shut down the proceedings like he has in Parliament. Canadians will finally get the answers they deserve,” he added in another tweet.
The suit could escalate increasing tensions between the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition Conservatives ahead of a federal election on Oct. 23 later this year.
Scheer has repeatedly called for Trudeau to step down from the position of prime minister.
Image of Andrew Scheer from Wikimedia Commons.