This is a quick follow-up to a post I wrote in May about the lawsuit. Without going into much detail into that one, I found the whole affair to be quite amusing (failed candidate Maxine tarnishing the PC brand on his rapid descent back into obscurity). The affair also served as a vehicle for exploring the issue that is people’s previously publicly shared bad takes coming back to haunt them long after.
In terms of the lawsuit, I had this to say:
In closing, I’d be surprised if this goes anywhere.
As it turns out, I was right (you didn’t need to be a lawyer to figure that out). One can’t help wondering why Bernier’s legal team wouldn’t have advised him of this and saved the court costs. Unless the goal was less about a legal victory than it was tarnishing the Progressive Conservative brand (with the help of the national media) with a giant brown stain.
If that was the case, mission accomplished.
Either way, we will now read from the CBC News coverage of this affair.
A defamation lawsuit launched by People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier against an outspoken political commentator and strategist has been dismissed by an Ontario court.
Bernier had been attempting to sue Warren Kinsella over comments that painted the PPC leader as a racist, misogynist and antisemitic prior to the 2019 federal election.
Bernier says those descriptions damaged his reputation and subjected him to public scandal and embarrassment.
In a ruling published on Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod dismissed the lawsuit because he said Kinsella would likely have been able to mount a valid defence for his criticisms.
The judge also said any harm caused to Bernier did not outweigh the importance of freedom of expression when discussing politicians and political parties in the public sphere.
That is an interesting ruling. It sounds like the fact that this was a political race was the factor that tipped the scale (in my opinion, rightly). It raises the question of what may happen in such a scenario outside the realm of politics. For example, if a person’s controversial views (or something else that is damaging to their reputation) are openly publicized without their knowledge, can the ramifications of that constitute harm?
While I am aware of the notion that most people’s censorship problems are less about censorship than they are the consequences of one’s speech, this judgement strikes me as potentially muddying the waters legally.
But I’m not a lawyer. Feel free to share your view in the comments if you wish.
In an interview with CBC News in October, Bernier expressed confidence that his case would succeed.
“Kinsella said that I said that I was a racist and a Nazi and I’m suing him for discrimination. And I will have that decision and I can tell you that it will be positive in our favour,” he said on Oct. 6.
Kinsella’s consulting firm Daisy Group was hired to “seek and destroy” the PPC in the run-up to the 2019 federal election, according to documents seen by CBC News.
A source with knowledge about the project said Kinsella was hired by the Conservative Party of Canada, which wanted to discredit the PPC before its first election as a registered party. Kinsella has not confirmed any direct involvement with the Conservatives and says instead that he was hired by CPC sympathizers.
The PPC failed to win a seat in the 2019 election, capturing 1.6 per cent of the national vote. The party also did not win a seat in the 2021 election, though its share of the popular vote grew to 4.9 per cent.
That the share of the PPC popular vote is slowly growing isn’t great (following a pattern of fascist tendencies worldwide). But it’s hard to not consider the party as being a joke. Frankly, a cheap clone of the brand sold by Donald down south.
This is obviously no joke to the Progressive Conservative party, however. After all, it won’t be the left-wing vote that the party will be potentially splitting. Otherwise known as, this isn’t going to be as easy as absorbing the Canadian Alliance Party back in the day.
MacLeod also noted that Bernier and the PPC were being widely criticized within Canadian political discourse during the 2019 election.
“Widespread characterization of Mr. Bernier and the PPC as racist and xenophobic or at least as pandering to those elements of the political spectrum was rife in the media. Comparisons with Donald Trump, [pro-Brexit politician] Nigel Farage or [far-right French politician] Marine LePen were widespread,” MacLeod wrote.
“Mr. Kinsella may have approached his task with particular caustic enthusiasm, but, at worst, Mr. Kinsella’s postings can be seen as a drop of vitriol in a sea of criticism.”
He’s certainly not wrong (I just did it). Not without precedent, however. After all, if the whole thing couldn’t have been backed up, Benier would have lost the suit!
Either way, as a leftist, this can only be a good thing. If the Progressive Conservatives keep being dragged into the PPC dumpster fire, running against them from the left will be a breeze.