Editors, the Gauntlet,
Re: "Day did it legally," Jan. 18, 2001
What rich irony that Kris Kotarski’s defence of Stockwell Day’s use of public funds to defend his libel suit is printed immediately beside a polemic against bias and concentrated ownership of the media.
Kotarski grossly misrepresents the facts when he erroneously proclaims that "…Day’s hand was forced." He "had" to use public funds. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What may have been confusing to the Gauntlet sports editor was the report to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from Ethic Commissioner Robert Clark’s office which, after carefully outlining that Clark had grave concerns making any definitive ruling as a public servant, stated that "…contributions to a ‘legal defence fund’ are presently prohibited by section 7 of the Conflicts of Interest Act." This was in reference to the Web site (now gone) on which Mr. Day reiterated his libellous comments towards Mr. Goddard and solicited donations for his defence.
As to whether or not Mr. Day "could" use the Risk Management Fund, Robert Clark tentatively concluded that "…[m]embers currently have the legal right to make claims through the Risk Management and Insurance program…" which is a far cry from the bold wording used by Kotarski.
In fact, Day didn’t have to use the Risk Management Fund at all; he could very well have paid Mr. Goddard the $65,000 in damages which was asked for very early in the case (initially, Goddard was seeking $600,000 but changed this figure in early negotiations). Day could have easily and legally elected to pay all his own legal bills throughout. Instead, he chose to exercise his option of seeking protection through the Risk Management Fund and is rightly condemned by the Honourable Ralph Klein, the media and myself for doing so.
It may also be illuminating to look at the strategy actually employed by Mr. Day’s publicly-funded lawyer. Instead of arguing that no libel took place, the defence instead argued that politicians should be allowed to commit libel outside of Parliament (where they are already exempt). Would Mr. Day have pursued such a questionable defence strategy were the funds to come from his own pocket? One can only speculate, since Day refuses to comment.