Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Opposition parties warn of 'libel chill' because of Tory lawsuits

OTTAWA - The Liberals accused Stephen Harper of waging a "fundamental attack on freedom of political expression" in their legal statement of defence Tuesday against a $2.5-million libel suit the prime minister launched over bribery allegations in the Chuck Cadman affair.

The Liberals also requested a trial by jury in the Superior Court of Justice in the statement accusing Harper of trying to "limit public debate" and to avoid unanswered questions about reports by Cadman's family that two Conservative officials offered the late Independent MP a $1-million life insurance policy in exchange for his vote in the House of Commons in 2005.

As lawyers for the Liberal Party of Canada submitted the response in court, Liberal MPs joined New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois MPs to express alarm about the spread of "libel chill" on Parliament Hill and to try to overturn a federal ethics commissioner's ruling which muzzles MPs who are being sued.

No comments: