An Ontario Superior Court judge has ordered former Conservative MP and minister Helena Guergis to pay $118,560 of the legal costs incurred by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others in defending themselves against her unsuccessful wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
Justice Charles T. Hackland ordered the allowable amounts and disbursements to be paid within 30 days of his Feb. 25 decision. Guergis lost her $1.3-million lawsuit against Harper, cabinet ministers and staff and the Conservative Party of Canada last August.
Harper, his principal secretary Ray Novak, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and parliamentary secretary Shelly Glover together had asked for close to $70,000 in costs, and were ultimately awarded $46,500.
Also awarded costs in Monday's decision:
- Axelle Pellerin, a former staff member for both Guergis and Raitt.
- Guy Giorno, the prime minister's former chief of staff.
- The Conservative Party of Canada.
- The party's lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, and its law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell.
"When a plaintiff … chooses to sue a wide variety of defendants on the basis of accusations of conspiracy and bad faith, the expectation must be that the claims will be vigorously defended and those defendants with different interests will be separately represented and those with similar interests may or may not be separately represented," Hackland wrote in his decision.
"The plaintiff’s expectation here must have been that the defendants would be incurring substantial costs in the defence of this action. At the same time, as I have just observed, there should be a reasonable expectation that costs would not be payable to multiple counsel putting forward an identical position," he said, in deciding to award a final amount lower than the $228,000 originally sought by the defendants.
An additional defendant, private investigator Derrick Snowdy, did not participate in this action and therefore was not part of this decision to award costs.
Suit alleged conspiracy
Guergis had claimed conspiracy, defamation, misfeasance in public office, intentional infliction of mental suffering, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of duty of good faith and breach of confidence over her sudden removal from cabinet and the Conservative caucus in April 2010.
Guergis's husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, was cited in negative media coverage prior to her removal and Guergis herself had weathered several small controversies as the minister of state for the status of women.
Guergis was investigated by the RCMP after allegations involving fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences and prostitution were forwarded by the prime minister's office. The ethics counsellor was also asked to investigate.
Guergis was eventually cleared but not allowed to rejoin the Conservative caucus. She ran as an Independent Conservative in the 2011 election and was defeated by the Conservative candidate.