TORONTO – Patrick Brown and his publisher say the former Progressive Conservative leader’s tell-all book is not defamatory because the facts laid out in it are true.
Brown and Optimum Publishing International also say any opinions expressed in “Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown” are fair comment made without malice on matters of public interest.
Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has filed a defamation lawsuit against Brown and Optimum over allegations made in the book, which Fedeli describes in his statement of claim as a “vicious and petulant attack on his character.”
Fedeli alleges the book contains false and defamatory comments about alleged sexual misconduct and a slew of other problematic statements.
Brown and Optimum have filed separate statements of defence in response to Fedeli’s claim, in which they raise largely the same arguments.
Both documents say the book makes it clear the allegations of sexual misconduct against Fedeli have not been verified “in court or by way of a workplace investigation.”
They also say both Brown and his publisher took reasonable steps to verify the contents of the book, “including obtaining relevant documents and speaking with multiple sources.”
WATCH: Patrick Brown says Vic Fedeli ‘dodged a bullet’ in relation to sexual misconduct allegations (Nov. 14)
The statements at issue in the lawsuit “constitute responsible communication on matters of public interest,” including Brown’s resignation as Tory leader and the appointment of a new leader, as well as Fedeli’s involvement in those events, the statements of defence argue.
What’s more, the documents claim Fedeli has not suffered any damage to his reputation as a result of the book.
“Fedeli remains Ontario’s finance minister as part the (Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario) government, holding one of the most powerful positions for any elected representative in the province,” they read. “Any harm done Fedeli’s reputation, which is not admitted but denied, is a result of Fedeli’s own conduct and that he has failed to mitigate same.”
Both further argue Fedeli’s claim “was brought with the intention of silencing the defendants and stifling discussion on those matters of public interest, and to prevent public scrutiny and criticism of the actions of Fedeli and the PCPO.”
“The effect of this legal action is to interfere with political discourse and to unduly limit expression and debate on those important matters of public interest,” the documents allege.
Brown, who stepped as party leader last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies, issued the book in November, after he was elected mayor of Brampton, Ont.
In it, he paints himself as a victim of a political conspiracy orchestrated by senior Tory officials.
He wrote that Fedeli faced accusations of “inappropriate behaviour” by a party staffer in December 2017, which the finance minister has denied.
Fedeli takes issue with a number of statements in the book that he says are defamatory, including allegations that he is a hypocrite, a “suck up,” disloyal and unfaithful, according to his claim.
Neither his claim nor the statements of defence have been proven in court.
© 2019 The Canadian Press