Helena Guergis files lawsuit against PM, Tories
Published Thursday, December 22, 2011 10:57PM EST
Former federal cabinet minister Helena Guergis has named Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the federal Conservative Party and several others in a lawsuit claiming $1.3 million in damages related to defamation and other claims.
Guergis left the Tory caucus in April 2010, amidst unproven allegations against her and her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer.
In the statement of claim filed with Ontario's Superior Court, and obtained by CTV News on Thursday, Guergis alleges that the defendants conspired to "engage in unlawful acts in order to remove" her from the party ranks.
The court action cites defamation, conspiracy, intentional infliction of mental suffering and negligence.
According to the statement of claim, "The conduct of the Defendants has resulted in damage to the Plaintiff's reputation, her career in politics and public service, her ability to earn income, her health, and her personal well-being."
Guergis is not only suing Harper and the Tory party, but also names MPs Shelly Glover and Lisa Raitt, as well as Harper's principal secretary Ray Novak, former chief-of-staff Guy Giorno. Former Guergis aide Axelle Pellerin and Derrick Snowdy are named too, as is Arthur Hamilton and his law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell.
In the lawsuit, Guergis alleges that she was excluded from caucus meetings and activities by Harper, Raitt, Glover, Novak, Giorno and Pellerin based on negative media coverage in connection with allegations against her husband.
Jaffer, a former Alberta Conservative MP, came under scrutiny for his activities as a lobbyist. He also drew media attention when an associate had bragged to friends that Jaffer could open doors for potential clients in Ottawa.
Filings to a House of Commons committee revealed that Jaffer had been using 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.
The statement of claim also alleges that those being sued conspired to present allegations about Guergis' behaviour, including fraudulent activity, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences, association with prostitutes and cocaine use.
She is suing for general damages of $800,000 plus punitive damages of $250,000 and aggravated damages of $250,000.
The claims stem from Guergis' ejection from the Tory cabinet and caucus in 2010, after allegations of improper conduct were relayed to the party by a private detective who was investigating a businessman facing fraud charges. The investigator claimed to have evidence of illegal drug use by Guergis and Jaffer.
Harper fired Guergis from cabinet citing information he had received involving allegations of criminal conduct. According to the claim, Harper did not provide any details of the allegations to Guergis.
The RCMP was asked to step and determine, among other things, whether Jaffer had used his wife's office for business.
While the Ethics Commissioner ruled that Guergis had misused her office, the Mounties found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. No charges were laid, but Guergis was not allowed back in the party ranks.
She was also removed as the Conservative candidate in the southern Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey.
The Prime Minister's Office calls the allegations groundless, suggesting that voters have passed their own judgement on Guergis.
"The allegations are groundless and they will be refuted vigorously," PMO spokesperson Carl Vallee said in an email. "Also if I may add, this latest action is ridiculous. The voters have made their minds up on Helena Guergis."
Guy Giorno went a step further in his reaction.
"The claim is an incoherent mix of fantasy, fabrication and fiction. I am embarrassed for her lawyer and sorry that Helena remains detached from reality," he said in a statement.
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife says Guergis' chances of successfully suing the Prime Minister are "pretty slim," noting their differences represent a "long-standing political soap opera."
"She is challenging the right of a prime minister to fire a cabinet minister. Usually when someone is fired they slink away never to be heard from again or they try to redeem themselves," Fife said.With a report from CTV's Daniele Hamamdjian