[UPDATE Apr. 17, 2014: Toronto MP Chrystia Freeland has been acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in the new riding of University-Rosedale for the 2015 election.]
Justin Trudeau has talked himself into a defamation lawsuit that is likely to leave his party quite a bit lighter in the wallet. The shoot-from-the-lip Liberal leader and his Ontario campaign co-chair David MacNaughton are named in a $1.5-million libel suit filed on behalf of Christine Innes, a candidate who was barred from running for the Liberal party.
Innes had wanted to contest the Liberal nomination for the pending by-election in Trinity-Spadina, the seat vacated when New Democrat MP Olivia Chow resigned to run for mayor of Toronto. Trinity-Spadina and Toronto Centre ridings will cease to exist in 2015 when redistribution comes into effect. As a result, three new Toronto ridings will be created from the two current ones.
As far as I can make out, Trudeau was quite prepared to let Innes seek the Liberal nomination for the Trinity-Spadina by-election, but only if she agreed not to contest the 2015 nomination of the newly created University-Rosedale riding. Apparently, Trudeau—who had promised “open” nominations in all ridings—wants to reserve that riding for his star candidate, MP Chrystia Freeland.
Freeland, a former business journalist and co-chair of the Grits’ Council of Economic Advisors, won the Toronto Centre by-election in November. But she will have to run in another riding in 2015 after Toronto Centre is carved up.
Evidently, when Innes refused a deal that would have seen her contest Spadina-Fort York, another of the new downtown ridings, the Grit bosses attacked her personally and publicly. According to media reports, Innes’s libel action claims:
They accused her [Christine Innes] and her campaign team in the national media of ‘bullying,’ ‘intimidation,’ and other unethical conduct … The defendants deliberately sacrificed Innes’ reputation in order to create a smokescreen to shield Trudeau from public outcry for breaching his public vow of non-interference in local riding nominations.”
Pretty heavy stuff. And, perhaps, most curious and to many onlookers most distasteful is that Innes was allegedly blocked from running—at least in part—for something her husband did. Really. In this day and age are wives to be held to account for the actions or words of their husbands? Apparently, in Trudeau’s world they are.
By the way, Innes’s husband is Tony Ianno, Liberal MP for Trinity-Spadina for 13 years and former Minister of Families and Caregivers. Innes herself is a long-time Liberal and an aide to Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan. She’s been a Liberal candidate twice before, running unsuccessfully against Olivia Chow. Innes also served as co-chair of the committee that oversaw the Liberal leadership race that Trudeau won.
So these are Liberal party insiders, not loose cannons like those who are, unfortunately, present in all political parties. Ianno did, however, seem to lose favour with some of his Liberal colleagues, apparently, because of an accusation of stock manipulation from the Ontario Securities Commission that resulted in a $100,000 fine and a five-year trading ban. He was, I might add, absolved of all other allegations.
Trudeau and David MacNaughton will not, in all probability, have to pay personally for any of this—unless one counts hurt pride—because the Liberal party will presumably pay whatever dollar damages they settle for and the related legal fees that could be substantial. The party shouldn’t have to pay for this sordid bit of poor personal judgement, of course, but it almost certainly will. Moreover, it’ll pay damages and costs out of hard-earned donations from party members.
So what does this say about Justin Trudeau’s pledge of being open and democratic? This is repeated so often it’s almost reached the status of a mantra. But now his words have a hollow ring to them. As I see it—other than some grandstanding when he unceremoniously dumped his Senate caucus—Trudeau’s way is the same old way of a long line of Liberal leaders.
Moreover, slander can now be added to Trudeau’s accumulating gaffes and indiscretions. There’ll be more to come.