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How not to kill an alleged bribery scandal…

The Cons. latest tactic in trying to kill the Chuck Cadman alleged bribery scandal they find themselves immersed in is now to threaten to sue Dion, Ignatieff and Ralph Goodale by claiming they libelled Harper over said alleged scandal. Apparently, they aren’t suing them over anything to do with what they said outside the House and outside the bounds of Parliamentary immunity, but for a statement on the Liberal.ca website that is also normally legally protected as it uses and refers to statements made in QP, but they claim is somehow not – Kady O’Malley tries to explain further:

…if I’m reading this notice correctly, the prime minister — through his lawyers — claims that the Liberals went beyond the bounds of parliamentary privilege by publishing statements that were originally made in the House of Commons – and, as such, protected – on the party’s website. “The articles in issue are not a fair and accurate report of proceedings in the House of Commons and are not privileged,” according to the notice. “Further, the statements complained of were made maliciously and with a reckless disregard for the truth destroying any privilege that may have existed.”

So let me get this straight; they’re suing not on anything the 3 Liberal Party leaders said outside the House, but because they feel the Liberal.ca newsrelease didn’t accurately reflect what was said inside QP?

That’s their claim?

It’s very interesting that they didn’t bother to sue or threaten to sue any of the Cadman family, or any of the media covering this – just a few Liberal Party leaders. It reeks of libel chill and politics, and the forlorn hope that it will somehow kill the story. In my view, it does exactly the opposite – the public will start to think that maybe there really is something to this story – if they haven’t thought that way already.

I hope our leaders (since I’m a Liberal after all) don’t give in to this tactic, and keep the pressure on ( and yes, I do think an election is warranted over this, if you hadn’t guessed).

UPDATE: This should go over well in court if it gets there – maybe the Liberals should subpoena Bob Fife to find out who the Conservative sources were that told him this libel suit is all about politics – wouldn’t that be entertaining.

UPDATE 2: Mrs Cadman issues a press release claiming she believed Stephen Harper didnt know anything about it when she looked into his eyes as he issued his denial. That’s not a complete shock she issued that – explains why she’s remaining as Conservative candidate, much to the bewilderment of her daughter. As Scott Ross explains, that doesn’t get the Cons. off the hook.

UPDATE 3: I just asked a well-informed source if the Liberals were going to apologize to Harper as he demands. The answer was a blunt “no apology”. If you watched QP today, I think the tone of the questions made that abundantly clear they have no intention at this point of apologizing. The accusations of “bribe” was flung around openly and deliberately.

UPDATE 4: Jeff basically says what I did with some more detailed information that the Liberals will fight the libel accusations. Methinks it’s going to be nasty in QP and outside QP for awhile, till we get an election, which I hope is soon. Remember that the Wheat Board Bill to strip the CWB of single payer access for barley is coming up, and the Cons. are threatening to make that bill one of confidence. I was beginning to lean toward Steve’s view that perhaps we should wait till that happens and then go on that in combination of Cadman and it, but with the libel suit and Harper upping the ante and probably enraging Liberals everywhere – both in caucus and without – this backbone by the Liberals on this issue may speed up calls for a no-confidence vote.

UPDATE 5: Want to know one reason why Harper did this ? Woman at Mile 0 quotes pollster Nik Nanos who thinks it’s potentially bad news for the Cons and their brand unless they clear the air on this. Threatening libel suits isn’t what I call being transparent, however.

11 comments to How not to kill an alleged bribery scandal…

  • Andrea Timmons

    Canadian political libel law is archaic.  I would think if it goes to court that the Liberals could easily get it dismissed by citing the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms as part of their defence.
    If this precedent for a sitting PM to be able to sue the sitting Opposition Party for personal defamation is allowed & accepted by a Canadian court, then it will indeed open a can of worms which could actually thwart the rights of politicians to speak freely. 
    The court will not support this kind of legislative action & if it’s smart it will change the archaic law to agree with that of other international countries who have abandoned it.

  • ALW

    Gayle, it’s a bit rich that just 48 hours ago the Liberals were telling anyone who would listen just how believable Dona Cadman was.  Now that she’s not helping the Liberal case, suddenly she’s a sellout!

    Jeff has it exactly right when he says "no matter what we (Liberals) think we know, that’s different from what we can legally prove." This is why Dion et al could be in serious trouble here.  They could have just couched everything and asked a lot of questions; instead, they chose to make very serious and very specific allegations.  That’s extremely unadvisable.

  • Mrs. Cadmans first statement is experiential and probably factual given what else has been reported: My husband told me he had been offered…

    Her second is feeling and belief…I believed Mr. Harper had no knowledge…

    Mr Harper is familiar with plausible denialibility.

    The first has more credibility in court. The second does look co-ordinated, the timing doesn’t look good.

  • mike h

    liberals are so pathetic….you have him guilty and hung already…just for fun i am going to quote another liberal..da proof is da prrof..and if it is proven that der is a good proof then it is proven..come on you guys…you are so desperate to jump on anything to try and bring harper down..i am not sure to be honest whether any of this is true or not but i am very suspect as to why…after many years this has come out of the closet..is it now because harper is the pm and now it is convienient for this to come out???

  • Gayle

    "Why is Dona Cadman clearing up this whole ‘misunderstanding’ on the same day that Stephen Harper takes the unprecedented action of threatening a libel action against MPs for statements made in the House?
    Why didn’t she clear it up 4 days ago…or 3…or 2?
    Something still not right about this whole sorry business."

    Because they coordinated the statement and the lawsuit in the hopes the liberals would let this issue drop.

    You can see why Ms. Cadman would want it to drop, given how her husband is being dragged through the mud, and given how it may impact her candidacy for the CPC. It is obvious why Harper wants it to stop.

  • Sproo

    There’s a credibility issue here.

    When Donna Cadman is speaking about the Cadman affair in a way that goes against the conservatives, she has something to lose by doing so and so is considered more credible.  When she speaks about Stephen Harper telling the truth, she has something to gain (continued candidacy withthe party) and so is less credible.

    In both cases though, what she’s reporting is heresay. She heard her husband say the conservatives attempted to bribe him, and she heard Harper say he had no knowledge of the affair.  So really, all we’ve really learned from Ms. Cadman is that she believes everything she hears.  

    Good thing about the tapes.

  • rufous

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/03/03/cadman-statement.html?ref=rss
    Monday, March 3, 2008 | 12:56 PM ET

    "Dona Cadman said Monday that she talked to Stephen Harper about a million-dollar life insurance policy that she alleges the Conservatives offered her late husband, Independent MP Chuck Cadman, and believed the prime minister when he said he had no knowledge about the matter.
    "I recall specifically asking him if he was aware of a million-dollar insurance policy offer that upset Chuck [Cadman] so much," she said in a news release issued Monday.
    "He looked me straight in the eyes and told me he had no knowledge of an insurance policy offer. I knew he was telling me the truth; I could see it in his eyes. He said, yes, he’d had some discussions with two individuals about asking Chuck to rejoin the party, but he’d told them they were wasting their time trying to convince Chuck."

    Why is Dona Cadman clearing up this whole ‘misunderstanding’ on the same day that Stephen Harper takes the unprecedented action of threatening a libel action against MPs for statements made in the House?
    Why didn’t she clear it up 4 days ago…or 3…or 2?
    Something still not right about this whole sorry business.

  • slg

    All it does to me is make Harper look like he’s hiding something.  If he has nothing to hide he wouldn’t worry about investigations, etc.

    Perhaps Goodale should have sued during the election.  Can a government be sued for statements outside the House that were either lies or misrepresentations?  If so, the Liberals would have a lot of ammunition.

  • I have read the content in question, and it looks to be fair comment to me.

    This is likely both a bluff by Harper to chill, and a delaying tactic to move discussion off into the future, post-election, given that torts like this take years to resolve.

    Dion has a duty to the public to ignore this tactic and turn up the heat.

    And if there is libel here… I don’t care. Canada’s libel laws are aristocratic in nature and desperately need updating. In every other real democracy on the world, this matter would be deemed in the public interest and beyond the ability to tort successfully.

    In California, Harper could be sued successfully for trying to sue for this! (see Anti-Slapp legislation)

    Dion should keep pushing, start up a web site ( say "whatisharperhiding.ca") and push hard, ignoring the traditional lawyer advice when someone claims libel, which is to shut up.

    This is also the perfect opportunity for our representatives to stand up and condemn this backwards law.

    See Wikipedia – Defamation for more.

  • Not all of the statements in question were made inside the house, and under the shield of privilege.

    As I wrote at my place, the Liberals are in some trouble here. No matter what we think we know, that’s different from what we can legally prove.

  • I just have one question. If, as you say, this is more than sufficient warrant for an election, and one is held over this matter, and the Prime Minister’s Government is returned at the polls, what does that do to all the indignation being expressed?Would the will of the electorate cause everyone to stand down and shut up for a good long time? Or would we just jump back in the following day with more of the disrespectful and obnoxious exchanges that have come to substitute for federal politics in the twenty-first century (something where there is more than enough blame to be laid at the feet of just about every MP in the House and more than a few Senators, regardless of party)?I’d really like to know the answer to that, because frankly promising to stop the nonsense and return to civil exchange that respects the other side of the aisle as filled with human beings of generally good intent would do quite a bit more for this nation than worrying about this potential policy or that, or (heavens forfend) letting the past — again, in all parties’ cases — go.

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