OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau says his threat to sue Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is about making sure there are consequences for lying in politics – but he’s not saying if he intends to make good on it.
Asked whether he plans to follow through with his threatened lawsuit, the prime minister would only say that with an election on the horizon, he won’t put up with politicians twisting the truth and distorting reality.
“I think it’s important that all politicians be straight with Canadians,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday.
“You can’t be inventing things, you can’t be lying to Canadians and I think highlighting that there are consequences, short term and long term, when politicians choose to twist the truth and distort reality for Canadians — it’s not something we’re going to put up with.”
Scheer revealed Sunday that Trudeau’s lawyer sent him a libel notice late last month, demanding he take back claims the prime minister interfered with the prosecution of Montreal firm SNC-Lavalin and lied to Canadians.
The notice is not an actual lawsuit, just a threat that one might come – a standard first step in a defamation claim.
WATCH: Scheer challenges Trudeau to follow through on lawsuit threat
On Monday, the Conservative leader urged Trudeau to bring it on, saying he’d welcome a lawsuit that would force Trudeau to testify about the affair under oath.
“Canadians are looking forward to the prime minister finally appearing under oath and testifying in a setting that he, himself, cannot control,” Scheer said Monday, repeatedly asking the government to set a date for legal proceedings to begin.
Trudeau says that while people disagree in politics, there are consequences for telling lies about one’s partisan adversaries. He says he would be satisfied if Scheer agrees to retract the comments and apologize.
This would not be the first time Canada’s political parties took legal action over comments made by opponents.
WATCH: Scheer asks Trudeau why the truth gets you kicked out of the Liberal party (Apr. 3)
In 2008, then Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper launched a libel suit against the Liberal party over allegations that he had known about an alleged attempt by Conservatives to bribe independent MP Chuck Cadman in exchange for his support in a key confidence vote in 2005.
The lawsuit made it difficult for then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion to raise the issue during the 2008 election campaign. A few months after the election, which returned Harper’s Conservatives to power with a minority in Parliament, Harper settled the matter out of court with Dion’s successor Michael Ignatieff.
— With files from Global News.