10/17/2014 02:46 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST

St. John's Telegram Denies It Defamed Danny Williams

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The St. John's Telegram in Newfoundland is denying accusations from former premier Danny Williams that one of its editorials defamed him.

The newspaper has filed a statement of defence in response to a statement of claim from Williams that alleges an editorial published on Sept. 19 wrongly implied he influenced St. John's city councillors.

In the statement of defence filed before the province's Supreme Court, the Telegram denies allegations that the editorial implied that Williams "bribed" city council to vote in favour of a rent cut to help reduce the costs for the St. John's IceCaps hockey club.

Williams is the president and CEO of the American Hockey League franchise and farm team for the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. At issue was a closed-door council decision to spend $700,000 over two years to defray costs for the St. John's IceCaps.

The Telegram editorial, titled "Buying Influence," called the decision a "rental subsidy agreement." It says the IceCaps made election donations to most of the city councillors, which it notes is "all above board and totally expected in our political system."

The editorial then shifts into a broader discussion of what it describes as lax rules in "a ludicrously archaic and opaque system" governing contributions to leadership or nomination campaigns. Newfoundland and Labrador is among several provinces that do not impose donation limits, it says.

"The entire editorial was a comment about an issue of public interest, namely the lack of regulation with respect to contributions to political campaigns, and called for the leaders of the province to make the necessary reforms," the Telegram's statement of defence says.

"In the context of the editorial as a whole the words complained of were fair comment made in good faith and without malice."

Williams is seeking unspecified compensation for various alleged damages, along with legal costs.

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