OTTAWA — An out−of−court settlement has been reached in a long−running defamation suit filed against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. by a would−be Liberal candidate and her former−MP husband.
The lawsuit was initiated almost four years ago by Christine Innes after she was barred from running for the Liberal party in a federal byelection in the Toronto riding of Trinity−Spadina and further prohibited from seeking a Liberal nomination in any riding for the 2015 general election.
David MacNaughton, who was the party’s Ontario campaign co−chair at the time, cited “bullying and intimidation” tactics employed by the Innes campaign team — specifically by Innes’ husband, former Liberal MP Tony Ianno — as the reason for the decision.
Innes filed suit in April 2014 against Trudeau, then leader of the third party, and MacNaughton, seeking $1.5 million in damages to her reputation; Ianno joined the suit a few months later, seeking another $1.5 million for damage to his reputation, lost business opportunities and emotional suffering.
The pair continued to pursue the case after Trudeau became prime minister in 2015 and tapped MacNaughton to be Canada’s ambassador to Washington.
The Liberal party says the suit has now been settled “by mutual agreement of the parties,” who have agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential.
In a statement Friday announcing the settlement, the party says it “regrets the circumstances that led to this lawsuit.”
It also “acknowledges the many years of public service and deep and valued contribution” that Innes and Ianno have made to public affairs and to the people of Canada.
MacNaughton’s decision, backed by Trudeau, to ban Innes as a candidate was the highest−profile controversy surrounding Liberal nominations in the run−up to the 2015 election. Critics maintained the treatment of Innes and several other would−be contenders put the lie to Trudeau’s promise to allow open nominations in every riding.
Innes maintained she was barred from running in the byelection because she refused to promise that she wouldn’t eventually challenge one of Trudeau’s star recruits — Chrystia Freeland, now foreign affairs minister — for a Liberal nomination in Toronto after riding boundaries were redrawn for the 2015 general election.
However, the party said the decision to bar Innes followed complaints by several young Liberal volunteers who alleged that Ianno had pressured them, disparaged Trudeau and Freeland and warned them they’d have little future in the party if they backed the wrong side in a potential Innes−Freeland nomination battle.