OTTAWA — A lawyer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a withering assessment Wednesday of a defamation case brought by former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, calling parts of her claim “gibberish” and “a fiction.”
Guergis has filed a $1.3-million lawsuit against Harper, the Conservative party and several figures inside the Tory government alleging defamation, conspiracy, “misfeasance in public office,” infliction of mental suffering and negligence.
The former minister of state for the status of women was turfed from her post and from caucus in April 2010 after a private detective went to a party lawyer with allegations mainly about Guergis’s husband, Rahim Jaffer.
Harper referred the matter to the RCMP and to the federal ethics watchdog.
Now lawyers for the government defendants are arguing before Ontario Superior Court that the entire case should be dismissed, mainly because of the concepts of Crown prerogative — Harper and the cabinet’s constitutionally protected ability to make decisions — and of parliamentary privilege.
Neither Guergis nor any of the government figures involved in the case were in court Wednesday.
“The argument is the prime minister, under our system of responsible government, determines who serves in the federal cabinet … ultimately that’s not justiciable,” said Harper lawyer Robert Staley.
“Someone who is disappointed because they didn’t get into cabinet . . . can’t take this to the courts. It’s purely a political discussion.”
The Canadian Human Rights Commission said last November it couldn’t rule on a complaint Guergis had launched there because of those two protections. But Staley went further, saying that many parts of Guergis’s claim were contradictory and not based in fact, and represented an abuse of process.
For example, he pointed out that Guergis based parts of her claim on conversations within the heart of the Prime Minister’s Office about which she wouldn’t have had the “foggiest clue.”
“This is throwing things against the wall to see what sticks,” said Staley, who is also representing Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, MP Shelly Glover and Harper’s principal secretary Ray Novak.
“This is as bald as you can get.”