VANCOUVER – British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he has made a “full and fair apology” for remarks about the province’s former liquefied natural gas advocate in reaction to a lawsuit claiming millions in damages against the B.C. government.
Horgan and B.C. Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston both filed statements of defence in court last week in reaction in a civil lawsuit launched by Gordon Wilson.
Wilson is seeking $5 million in damages alleging Horgan made defamatory statements to news media by saying there is no evidence of any written reports or briefings to back up Wilson’s salary.
Ralston is named for allegedly telling media that Wilson’s contract was terminated because an internal review uncovered no documents to support $550,000 in payments since 2013.
In almost identical statements of defence, Horgan and Ralston claim the lawsuit is unnecessary, frivolous or vexatious, adding that any comments they may have made are protected by the defences of fair comment and qualified privilege.
Both Horgan and Ralston say their full apologies to Wilson received considerable coverage in early August and they add the disputed details about Wilson’s role as B.C.’s LNG advocate came from trusted insiders.
“…The defendant’s statements were made without malice on a matter of public interest on the basis of information from apparently reliable and qualified sources within the British Columbia government and were protected by the defence of responsible communication,” Horgan says.
Ralston and Horgan also expressly deny “that the plaintiff has suffered injury loss or damage, as alleged or at all.”
None of the allegations made in the statements of claim or defence have been tested in court.
In his legal action, Wilson says information detailing his work on LNG was available on a government website but was negligently or wilfully overlooked and neither Horgan nor Ralston discussed any employment issues with him.
Ralston said in a Facebook post that his claim about there being no written reports was inaccurate, that he regretted making the statements and apologized to Wilson.
Wilson asserts that his termination soon after the NDP took over the government was “political payback” for his support of former premier Christy Clark, who had appointed him as LNG advocate.
He alleges he has been seriously injured in character, credit and reputation and the comments have negatively affected his ability to obtain employment as a government or industry consultant or advocate.