Have a read through this. Wynne needs to protect the “people”, you know, like Florida corporations, wind companies… that’s her kinda “people”.
TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne says her libel case against two Progressive Conservatives is not the reason her government is making changes to a bill on so-called SLAPPs — strategic lawsuits against public participation.
Wynne filed a $2-million lawsuit last spring against then-PC leader Tim Hudak and energy critic Lisa MacLeod over comments that Wynne “oversaw and possibly ordered the criminal destruction of documents” related to the $1.1-billion cancellation of two gas plants prior to the 2011 election. Media website Canadaland noted Tuesday that a reintroduced Liberal government bill to crack down on SLAPPs, which use the threat lawsuits to intimidate opponents, no longer contains a provision applying it to lawsuits already before the court.
Wynne’s office says the only reasons the change was made was for procedural fairness to people with cases in progress and because debate on the first version of the bill “became clouded by the interests of a few current litigants.” Read article
Who, pray tell Kathleen, are these “few current litigants”? And why are they so damned as to not receive anti-SLAPP suit protection because YOU say so? A tad dictatorial, don’t ya think?
On Canadaland they report that former AG Gerretson replied to the change with:
“Obviously the bill is weaker than the one we originally introduced and, presumably, it won’t do anything to protect people who have made expressions in the public interest in the past… I have no specific comment as to why the retroactive protection is gone except for it probably shouldn’t be gone.”
Coincidentally (?) I received this letter from the Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur today, in response to my question to legislature a month ago:
The government changed the application provision from the predecessor legislation (Bill 83) on the principle that it was fair to people who started litigation to have recourse to the rules in force at the time the lawsuit was initiated, rather than have the rules change after that time.
This is worse than I thought. I know we got in Kathleen’s face a lot in the last few years protesting, but I really hope this isn’t vindictive ‘payback’… would she go that low? I had read through the Hansard of the debate on Monday of Bill 52. It was a good debate. All parties agree this Bill is needed. Have a read through yourself if you have some time, I’ve posted some excerpts below.
From the Conservatives:
Bob Bailey: We support this bill at the end of the day. We want to see it go to committee and be improved. I know down in my riding as well that there’s a number of citizens who would benefit from this because we’ve had a number of big organizations to do with wind turbines, which everybody in Ontario is very aware of, where they’ve made it very difficult for people who oppose them. One lady left the province: Esther Wrightman. I know that’s not a name that’s unfamiliar in this room. She took on—I have to be careful and get the right name—NextEra versus—I won’t say what the other name was that they used. But anyway,
She took that organization on. She felt that she had to leave the province because they made it untenable for her to survive and stay here with her family. She’s from the riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, but she certainly took that fight on for everyone in Ontario. She took that fight across the province. She was a very vocal advocate and did her due diligence for her family and for a number of other people who were unable to or would not take the step.
This bill, Bill 52, if it’s enacted, will allow defendants in these kinds of situations to move a motion that would allow them the chance to prove to a judge that the legal proceedings being brought against them were unfair and were really targeted to just make them shut up and be silent. We want to see that legislation improved.
The judge would also be able to award compensation regarding costs if it was appropriate.
They would have a 60-day timeline on the hearing, so it would have to be tenable. This would amend the Libel and Slander Act.
Bill Walker: As I have told my constituents who wrote or called me about this bill, we’ve had a few examples of public participation being under attack in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. It’s been talked about a lot in here today by a number of the speakers, the Green Energy Act. Particularly, the wind turbines are always top of mind in my riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. I talk about the heavy cost of litigation brought against my constituents by a wind turbine company. They really came in, a lot of these large companies, particularly with foreign ownership, and tried to bully their way through. They’ve tried to steamroll. Sadly, this government wrote legislation that virtually undermined all other legislation, which allows them to do that.
Our democratically elected representatives at the municipal level really have been silenced because the Green Energy Act just came in and said, “We don’t need to listen to you. We don’t need to ask for your opinion or your approval. We can place these wind turbines here if that’s where we want them to go.” It’s unbelievable, Mr. Speaker. It has put a lot of people under significant stress and burden.
Was it meant to silence them, to intimidate them? A $300,000 lawsuit can easily silence anyone into submission, particularly those of modest means. They just finally say, “You know what? I don’t have the ability, I don’t have the money, to be able to go against that.” One of my colleagues here, from Timiskaming–Cochrane, I think, said that—a farmer who was working hard, raising a family, running his business. When you start throwing lawsuits at them, that becomes very, very challenging. I credit him and applaud him for standing his ground for his principles and not giving in, despite his own insurance company coming to him and saying, “You need to give up on this. You need to pass and just retract those statements.” So kudos to you, my colleague Mr. Vanthof from Timiskaming–Cochrane, for standing up for what you believe is right. That’s what we all get sent here to do, and I trust that’s why he has been re-elected to represent the people in his riding.
Some of that has happened across rural communities after residents tried to stop wind corporations from surrounding their homes and communities with giant turbines. They don’t want them, they didn’t want them, they continue to not want them, and yet, at the end of the day, they still have large lawsuits that are intimidating at this point.
In their statement of claim, the companies alleged that the residents were making misleading statements to discredit their business and have made misleading statements to the public, such as making comments on how residents were feeling terrorized by the wind companies.
The Green Energy Act was and continues to be a thorn in the side of rural communities and one that has brought on this kind of intimidating litigation that we’re trying to stop here today. You can’t threaten. You can’t bully just because you’re big and you have lots of money. That’s not the way we do things in Ontario. It’s not the way we do things in Canada, Mr. Speaker, and I think all of us in this House want to stand up and ensure that everybody has the equal right to speak.
Rural Ontario in particular has never really been the same since this government forced the Green Energy Act on our communities. I think it’s only a bit ironic that we’re debating Bill 52 in the context of this Liberal government’s Green Energy Act. They have actually put legislation in place that took away the ability for locals to have a say in anything. Many other businesses wouldn’t be allowed if we used current legislation before the Green Energy Act, and yet they brought in this legislation that supersedes and gives them the power to choose, “We will put wind turbines there,” in someone else’s backyard. A lot of people making those decisions will never have to put up with those wind turbines in their backyards, but they are certainly okay with it being done in someone else’s,
From the NDP:
Jagmeet Singh: There’s also one additional piece that I want to highlight. Initially, when this bill was introduced, there was a retroactive clause so that people currently facing lawsuits could make use of this new protection. I’m curious whether or not the government could answer this question: Is this retroactive clause no longer a part of the legislation? I understand that now there isn’t the retroactive clause, so that the existing lawsuits that people are faced with wouldn’t actually have the protection of this piece of legislation. That’s very concerning. There are people right now faced with serious lawsuits, and if they are not being protected by this legislation, this government is not really doing a good job in protecting public participation. So we really need to look at that. If that’s not here, why was that removed and why aren’t we protecting those people who are facing lawsuits?
Peggy Sattler: I want to raise a couple of concerns and echo a little bit of what was mentioned by my colleague the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton. That is around the retroactivity or lack of retroactivity of this legislation, which is something that we definitely need to look at as this legislation moves forward—and also the need for a public awareness campaign to make sure that citizens recognize their rights to participate in public discussions about issues affecting the environment and development. Both of those things should be looked at in committee, and I welcome this bill moving forward.
Catherine Fife: I also want to make mention and pose a question for the House on Bill 52: Why was the retroactive clause removed from Bill 52? If it’s the right thing to do going forward, why can’t you look back and say, retroactively, these cases happened and litigation was pursued, so why can’t we right those wrongs as well? So that question is outstanding for us in this party, and I think that actually it demands some attention. We will push that as it gets to committee.
Mr. John Fraser: The member from Sarnia–Lambton is correct when he says that sometimes it’s just a couple of people who are leading the fight. They take on that responsibility for all of us—all the people in their community. They take the risk, so we have to do something fair and balanced to make sure that risk is fair and balanced.
But then there was also this from Liberals:
Mitzi Hunter: I just want to reiterate what this new bill includes in terms of its amendments: clarifying the appeal process respecting decisions to dismiss lawsuits as strategic lawsuits and stay related administrative proceedings; limiting the amount of time spent on cross-examination to seven hours per side rather than seven hours per party; as well as applying the legislation only to those lawsuits begun after the introduction of the bill so as not to interfere with ongoing litigation; and, of course, changing the effective date of the bill from the date of royal assent instead of proclamation.
Monte Kwinter: What is different about this new legislation? The current bill includes a few minor amendments to clarify the appeal process respecting decisions to (a) dismiss lawsuits as a strategic lawsuit and (b) stay related administrative proceedings; limit the amount and time spent on cross-examinations to seven hours per side, rather than one day per party; apply the legislation only to those lawsuits begun after the introduction of the bill so as not to interfere with ongoing litigation; and change the effective date of the bill to the date of royal assent instead of proclamation.