Hearing on Guergis' $1.3M lawsuit in Ottawa court
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 9:11AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 18, 2012 2:07PM EDT
A high-profile legal tug of war began Wednesday as an Ottawa courtroom debated a lawsuit filed by former MP Helena Guergis against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several others.
CTV News Channel’s Mercedes Stephenson reported lawyers for Harper and several other political figures for the first day of a hearing that could determine whether Guergis’ lawsuit should be tossed out or permitted to move forward.
The former Tory federal cabinet minister filed a lawsuit in December 2011 seeking damages related to defamation, conspiracy and intentional infliction of mental suffering and negligence.
Guergis, who used to represent the Ontario’s Simcoe-Grey riding, left the Conservative caucus in April 2010 amid allegations involving her and her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer.
“She says that there was a conspiracy as well to try to get her kicked out of office,” Stephenson told News Channel on Wednesday.
“She says that it has damaged her life, it has damaged her health and it has damaged her ability to earn income.”
In statement of claim filed with Ontario’s Superior Court last December and obtained by CTV News, Guergis alleges that the defendants conspired to “engage in unlawful acts in order to remove” her from the Conservative Party ranks.
Harper’s lawyer Robert Staley fired back at the statement in court Wednesday.
Staley maintained that up to 95 per cent of Guergis’ allegations should be dismissed because Harper’s actions are protected by Crown and parliamentary privilege, The Canadian Press reported.
Among those named in Guergis’ lawsuit are Harper and the federal Conservative Party, former chief-of-staff Guy Giorno, as well as MPs Lisa Raitt and Shelly Glover.
Other names include:
- Harper’s principal secretary Ray Novak
- Former Guergis aide Axelle Pellerin
- Private investigator Derrick Snowdy
- Lawyer Arthur Hamilton and his firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell
In her lawsuit, Guergis alleges she was left out of Tory caucus activities by Harper, Raitt, Glover, Novak, Giorno and Pellerin due to negative media coverage involving her and her husband.
Jaffer, a former Alberta Conservative MP, has been criticized for his activities as a lobbyist and accused of trying to use his wife’s position to further his businesses dealings.
According to documents presented to a House of Commons committee in April 2010, Jaffer allegedly used one of Guergis' parliamentary email addresses, a room in her office and had handed out an old MP's business card to some prospective clients.
Guergis’ statement of claim alleges that the defendants conspired to spread allegations about her behaviour, including fraudulent activity, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences, association with prostitutes and cocaine use.
Allegations of misconduct led to Guergis being kicked out of the Conservative cabinet and caucus in 2010. The accusations were relayed by a private investigator who claimed to have evidence of illegal drug use by Guergis and Jaffer.
Upon firing Guergis, Harper had cited information he received involving allegations of criminal conduct. However, according to Guergis’ claim, he did not provide details of those accusations to Guergis herself.
Although the Ethics Commissioner ruled that Guergis had misused her office, a separate investigation by the RCMP found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Still, Guergis was not invited back to the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has pledged to fight Guergis’ lawsuit “vigorously” and Giorno alleges that her claims have no basis in reality.
Guergis is suing for general damages of $800,000 plus punitive damages of $250,000 and aggravated damages of $250,000.