TORONTO — An Ontario judge has dismissed a $6-million defamation lawsuit against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Ontario Superior Court Justice John Macdonald ruled Thursday that the plaintiff, restaurant owner George Foulidis, failed to meet the “essential aspects” required for a libel claim.
In the 15-page decision, Macdonald wrote that Foulidis did not prove that the comments in question made by Ford were directed at him or that they were defamatory.
“His action fails on this basis and must therefore be dismissed,” wrote the judge.
In a statement, the mayor says the court’s decision is “welcome.”
Foulidis sued Ford, alleging that the mayor suggested a sole-sourced, untendered, 20-year leasing deal between Foulidis’s company, Tuggs Inc., that the city was corrupt and that it “stinks to high heaven.”
Ford made the comments during a meeting with the Toronto Sun editorial board in the middle of his 2010 mayoral campaign bid.
He told the newspaper that he suspected “corruption and skulduggery” in the closed-doors deal, saying: “These in-camera meetings, there’s more corruption and skulduggery going on in there than I’ve ever seen in my life. And if Tuggs isn’t, then I don’t know what is.”
Ford testified in court that at the time, he wasn’t suggesting that the deal was illegal, just that it didn’t follow the proper tendering process.
“I can’t pinpoint it, but even to this day people still say the deal stinks to high heaven. But it’s hard to pinpoint and prove. But I’m not the only one saying that,” he told the Sun editorial board at the time.
“I’ve never seen a deal like this and it just didn’t add up to me. I still feel that way.”
During the trial, Foulidis’s lawyer told the court that Ford’s comments were “opportunist” at a time where the now-mayor was trying to win votes.
He also argued that Foulidis’s reputation as a businessman, and the owner of the Boardwalk Pub in the Toronto Beach neighbourhood, was damaged because Ford’s remarks were made without proof.
In the ruling, Macdonald agreed that Ford made the comments in question, but a reasonable person would not have linked them to Foulidis instead of the company in general.
Ford didn’t know Foulidis by name, and when questioned by the newspaper about the businessman, he had remarked: “I can’t accuse anyone...”
Lawyer Brian Shiller said in an email that Foulidis is disappointed in the decision and is considering his options.
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