POLITICS

Helena Guergis Lawsuit Against Harper In Ottawa Court

07/18/2012 06:01 EDT | Updated 09/17/2012 05:12 EDT
CP/The Globe and Mail
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lawyer told an Ottawa court this morning that the lawsuit against his client by Helena Guergis is full of bald allegations with no facts to support them.

A hearing to have the lawsuit against Harper and a long list of other defendants thrown out began Wednesday morning.

Harper's lawyer, Robert Staley, picked apart the claims made by Guergis and told Judge Charles Hackland that the lawsuit has little substance.

"It's not a proper pleading," he said. "This is just plain bad."

Staley pointed to a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in November that concluded Guergis's removal from cabinet and caucus in April 2010 were not justiciable actions. He said the same findings — that Harper's decisions are protected by the principles of Crown prerogative and Parliamentary privilege — should apply in this case.

In other words, the prime minister has the authority to decide who is in or out of his cabinet and caucus and any actions flowing from those decisions are protected from legal action.

Guergis filed in December a lawsuit that makes claims of conspiracy, defamation, misfeasance in public office, negligence and infliction of mental suffering.

The former Conservative MP for Simcoe-Grey in Ontario and minister of state for the status of women is suing for general damages of $800,000 plus punitive damages of $250,000 and aggravated damages of $250,000. After the controversy, she was not allowed back into caucus or to run again as a Conservative candidate. She ran in the 2011 election as an independent candidate and lost.

She is not only suing her former boss, but also:

- Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.

- Conservative MP Shelly Glover.

- Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff.

- Ray Novak, Harper's principal secretary.

- Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative Party's lawyer.

- Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Hamilton's law firm.

- The Conservative Party of Canada.

- Derrick Snowdy, the private investigator who helped spark controversy around Guergis.

- Axelle Pellerin, a former staff member with Raitt.

Letters not malicious, defamatory

Staley also argued that Harper was fully entitled to write letters to the RCMP and the ethics commissioner about the allegations he had been made aware of by the Conservative party's lawyer, Arthur Hamilton.

Derrick Snowdy, the private investigator who was involved in sparking controversy around Guergis and her husband, Rahim Jaffer, had passed on the allegations to Hamilton. They related to fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences and involvement in prostitution.

No allegations about Guergis's conduct have ever been proven, and in her statement of claim she denies any such illegal conduct. The RCMP also cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Staley said the tone of the letters was not malicious and there was nothing defamatory in them, as Guergis claims. It was entirely lawful and appropriate for Harper to ask the RCMP and ethics commissioner to investigate the allegations from the third party that had been passed on to him, his lawyer argued.

Guergis also complains that she was never given copies of those letters. Harper's lawyer argued she was not entitled to them because no right has been violated.

Harper's legal team also rejected Guergis's claims that Harper and the others made defamatory statements about her on different occasions. Everything in the letter to the RCMP was true, and in any case, conversations among the relevant players are protected by absolute privilege, they argued.

Arguments continue through Thursday

The prime minister's lawyer told the judge Guergis is just trying to dress up her failed human rights complaint and that it's an abuse of process to bring the matter to the courts.

Guergis filed her lawsuit in December, alleging a number of claims including defamation, negligence, conspiracy and misfeasance in public office.

Harper moved a motion in May to dismiss the lawsuit. It was also filed on behalf of Raitt, Glover and Novak.

Staley said the notion that Harper and the others entered into a conspiracy to remove Guergis from her political positions, as she alleges, is "preposterous. "

Guergis gave no facts in her statement of claim to substantiate her claim that they engaged in a conspiracy, Staley said.

"You don't get to make this stuff up," he said.

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Read Meagan Fitzpatrick's liveblog from court:

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