TORONTO - An Ontario judge has dismissed a $6-million defamation lawsuit against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Ontario Superior Court Justice John Macdonald ruled Thursday that the plaintiff, restaurant owner George Foulidis, failed to meet the "essential aspects" required for a libel claim.
In the 15-page decision, Macdonald wrote that Foulidis did not prove that the comments in question made by Ford were directed at him or that they were defamatory.
"His action fails on this basis and must therefore be dismissed," wrote the judge.
In a statement, the mayor says the court's decision is "welcome."
"I will continue fighting to represent the best interests of Toronto taxpayers at city hall," said Ford. "There is still a lot of work to be done and I will continue to focus on this."
Foulidis sued Ford alleging that the mayor suggested a sole-sourced, untendered, 20-year leasing deal between Foulidis's company, Tuggs Inc., and the city was corrupt and that it "stinks to high heaven."
Ford made the comments during a meeting with the Toronto Sun editorial board in the middle of his 2010 mayoral campaign bid.
He told the newspaper that he suspected "corruption and skulduggery" in the closed-doors deal, saying: "These in-camera meetings, there's more corruption and skulduggery going on in there than I've ever seen in my life. And if Tuggs isn't then I don't know what is."
Ford testified in court that at the time, he wasn't suggesting that the deal was illegal, just that it didn't follow the proper tendering process.
"I can't pinpoint it, but even to this day people still say the deal stinks to high heaven, but it's hard to pinpoint and prove, but I'm not the only one saying that," he told the Sun editorial board at the time.
"I've never seen a deal like this and it just didn't add up to me. I still feel that way."
During the trial, Foulidis's lawyer told the court that Ford's comments were "opportunist" at a time where the now-mayor was trying to win votes.
He also argued that his Foulidis's reputation as a businessman, and the owner of the Boardwalk Pub in the Toronto Beach neighbourhood, was damaged because Ford's remarks were made without proof.
In the ruling, Macdonald agreed that Ford made the comments in question, but a reasonable person would not have linked them to Foulidis instead of the company in general.
The judge also pointed out that Ford didn't know Foulidis by name, and when questioned by the newspaper about the businessman, he had remarked: "I can't accuse anyone..."
Ford's lawyer argued that the mayor's comments were opinion and that they were not defamatory because they were not intended to harm Foulidis.
The mayor also argued that he was talking about the company, not Foulidis himself, and that companies can't be defamed.
A lawsuit Foulidis launched against Toronto businessman, Bruce Baker, over similar comments was also dismissed by Macdonald.
Lawyer Brian Shiller said in an email that Foulidis is disappointed in the decision and is considering his options.
Meanwhile, Ford will return to court on Jan. 7 to appeal an unrelated decision.
In late November, Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland found that the mayor had violated conflict of interest laws by voting on an issue in which he had a financial interest. The judge ordered that Ford be removed from office.
A stay was granted until the appeal could be heard, and Ford has vowed that he will run in the byelection for his job if one is called. He argued that his decision to vote was an error in judgment.
Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford watches players from Don Bosco Eagles, the High School team he coaches, warm up before they compete against the Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012 Those whose antics threaten to besmirch the party name normally don't get a second chance with Canada's federal Conservatives. Not so, it would seem, for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford reacts after Don Bosco Eagles, the High School team he coaches, lost 28-14 to Huron Heights Warriors in the Metro Cup in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford hoists the Grey Cup on stage with Toronto Argonauts players while celebrating the team's Grey Cup victory in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Nov.27, 2012.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses reporters at City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday November 27, 2012.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks to his Don Bosco Eagles team during the Metro Bowl quarter-final at Birchmount Park in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, left, speaks to the media at city hall in Toronto, Monday, Nov.26, 2012. Ford has been ordered out of office after a judge ruled Monday he broke conflict of interest rules.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, right, walks to attend a toy charity event at city hall in Toronto, Monday, Nov.26, 2012. Ford has been ordered out of office after a judge ruled Monday he broke conflict of interest rules.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to media at city hall in Toronto, Monday, Nov.26, 2012.Ford has been ordered out of office after a judge ruled Monday he broke conflict of interest rules.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/21/rob-ford-fall-gif-video_n_2170653.html">Rob Ford was at an event to promote the Grey Cup when he fell while hamming it up for the press. A GIF of the fall went viral on the Internet</a>.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, right, makes a few remarks as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel listens, before the pair signed a new "sister cities" agreement Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, makes a light hearted comment as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laughs during the signing of a new "sister cities" declaration Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Chicago.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits on the back of Chicago's First Lady as he takes in an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Ford was visiting the city on a Toronto-Chicago Business Mission.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, top left, relaxes during a boat tour with members of the Toronto-Chicago Business Mission on the Chicago River waterfront Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Chicago.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, top right, waves to photographers during a boat tour with members of the Toronto-Chicago Business Mission on the Chicago River waterfront Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Chicago.
Rob Ford Meets Butter Rob Ford
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/31/rob-ford-butter-sculpture-ex-cne_n_1846616.html" target="_hplink">Toronto Mayor Rob Ford comes face to face with a butter sculpture of himself at the Canadian National Exhibition</a>.
Butter Rob Ford
As part of an exhibition at the CNE, Toronto-based artist Olenka Kleban has made a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/24/butter-rob-ford-sculpture_n_1828527.html" target="_hplink">butter sculpture of Toronto's mayor</a>.
Dave Chappelle And Rob Ford
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/22/dave-chappelle-rob-ford_n_1822240.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">Comedian Dave Chappelle met briefly with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford</a> on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/14/rob-ford-reading-driving-car-gardiner_n_1776183.html" target="_hplink">Rob Ford is seen reading while driving</a> in this photo from Twitter.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/30/rob-ford-will-ferrell-zach-galifianakis-sketch_n_1719420.html" target="_hplink">Rob Ford meets with comedic actors Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis</a>.
Rob Ford poses with neo-Nazi Jon Latvis. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/26/rob-ford-nazi-photo_n_1707326.html?utm_hp_ref=canada" target="_hplink">Ford's office has explained Toronto's mayor was unaware of the man's beliefs when the image was captured</a>.
Rob Ford's ballet debut
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (left) and city councillor Michelle Berardinetti (right) smile on stage during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)
Rob Ford's ballet debut
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acts on stage dressed as a Cannon Doll during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)
Rob Ford's ballet debut
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford jumps on stage dressed as a Cannon Doll during a performance of the Nutcracker in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)