The letter sent by the Prime Minister’s Office to the RCMP about former cabinet minister Helena Guergis had some on Friday making comparisons to another infamous piece of correspondence.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney brought a libel action against Liberal government in 1995 for a letter to Swiss authorities alleging possible malfeasance in the purchase of passenger jets. The case was settled on the eve of a trial when the Chretien government agreed to pay Mulroney $2 million.
The lawyer who represented Mulroney in the libel action says that Guergis could have a defamation claim over the letter to the RCMP asking for an investigation of what we now know were baseless allegations, including a claim she had snorted cocaine off the breast of a prostitute.
But Julian Porter says that unless the Prime Minister’s Office knew the claims were groundless, Guergis’ legal action would have to be directed at the originator of the story – private investigator Derrick Snowdy.
“If you’re maliciously concocting it, damn right you could be sued,” said Porter, who is considered one of Canada’s top defamation litigators.
However, a qualified privilege would allow the PMO to pass on the allegations to the RCMP, he said – unless they the claims were bogus.
“If somebody in the Prime Minister’s Office knew it was a false allegation and peddled it along, you’d have to prove this,” Porter said.
“They didn’t publicize what was in the letter. They passed it on to the RCMP. They can do that.”