OTTAWA — The gunslinger’s swagger was missing when NDP MP Pat Martin approached the podium Monday for a hastily arranged encounter with the media.
Gone was the usual sulphurous bombast that makes the former construction worker a favourite of reporters looking for an incendiary quote to spike a dull story.
Instead, the Winnipeg MP stuck to a prepared statement, straight-faced and sombre, without any ad-libbing as he apologized to a company associated with the Conservative Party of Canada.
RackNine Inc. is suing Martin for defamation after the Winnipeg MP accused CEO Matt Meier and the company of being behind the robocall affair that saw voters misdirected to non-existent polling locations during last May’s federal election.
Martin said he now knows RackNine and Meier had nothing to do with the misleading automated phone calls.
“I apologize for any damage my statements may have caused to Mr. Meier personally or to RackNine and I have been specifically authorized by the NDP to apologize on behalf of the NDP,” Martin read.
Martin’s tone was even. He raised his eyes only occasionally from his script. And his message was clearly directed at the company that continues to sue him.
“I now know that the statements I made insinuating Mr. Meier’s and RackNine’s participation in an electoral fraud conspiracy were wholly and unequivocally false. In my rush to express my personal outrage and the outrage of the NDP caucus, I jumped to conclusions I now know are unsupported by fact.”
Martin has built a reputation as the NDP’s lunch-bucket brawler. His colourful turn of phrase in the Commons and the Twitterverse has made him the needler of the official Opposition.
Cabinet ministers and government MPs admit he gets under their skin.
But his penchant for the pugnacious has triggered controversy.
Martin sent out a tirade of salty tweets after the Conservative government voted to end debate on a budget-related bill. The profanity-laced tweets condemned the government and declared its actions a disgrace.
The cyber spasms of rage sparked fresh comments about the conduct of MPs in Parliament and the decline of civilized debate in the House of Commons.
Martin had said he wants to address these concerns and improve parliamentary decorum. Last May, he made party-coloured buttons that read “Opto Civitas” (I Choose Civility) and shared the buttons with the other MPs.
“That’s the new me,” Martin said after the election.
The pledge of civility didn’t survive the robocall revelations.
The MP has already admitted he went too far when he accused Responsive Marketing Group, a company that had made calls on behalf of the Conservative Party in the last election, of having a connection with the robocall affair.
In another interview on national TV, Martin blamed Campaign Research Inc., an Ottawa-based company, of misleading voters in the last federal election. He later released a statement clarifying his remarks and claimed that he did “not accuse Campaign Research Inc. of having engaged in criminal activity in respect of robo-calls during the Spring 2011 election campaign.”
Martin’s statement on Monday adds to what seems like an ever-growing list of apologies.
“To my knowledge, neither Mr. Meier, nor RackNine, including any employees of RackNine, has ever been investigated for involvement in electoral fraud in the 2011 general election or otherwise,” he said.
“RackNine was merely an innocent intermediary not a participant in electoral fraud.”
Martin’s apology to Meier and RackNine Inc. does not clear up the lawsuit against him.
“We feel the apology is long overdue,” Justin Matthews, Meier’s lawyer, wrote in an email. “Defamation on this mass scale is thankfully a rare thing and it remains to be seen whether my client can get his life and business back to where it was prior to the many damaging statements made by Martin and the NDP.”
“An apology alone does not resolve the lawsuit.”