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John Horgan, Bruce Ralston fight back against Gordon Wilson libel lawsuit

Mike Smyth

Gordon Wilson speaks to business groups in Fort St. John in February 2014 as LNG - Buy BC Advocate. (Alaska Highway News)

Gordon Wilson speaks to business groups in Fort St. John in February 2014 as LNG - Buy BC Advocate. (Alaska Highway News)

VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan and Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston are fighting back against former Liberal leader Gordon Wilson's $5-million defamation lawsuit.

Wilson launched the massive court action last month after Horgan's new NDP government fired him as the province's $150,000-a-year “LNG advocate” on Aug. 1.

At the time of the firing, Horgan and Ralston said Wilson did little for the money he was paid, even though a later search by The Province of the government's own website turned up over 180 pages of reports and memos Wilson filed during his first 15 months on the job.

Days later, Horgan and Ralston both apologized to Wilson, but the former Liberal boss sued anyway, claiming “serious injury” to his character and reputation.

“Any statements about the plaintiff were fully protected by the defence of fair comment and/or the defence of qualified privilege,” Horgan and Ralston both say in defence documents newly filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

Wilson's lawsuit is “unnecessary, frivolous or vexatious” and “an abuse of the process of this court,” the defence documents state, adding the comments made by Horgan and Ralston were not defamatory and were made without malice.

Horgan had said Wilson produced "no briefings, no reports, no memorandums" during his time on the job, while Ralston said: "It's very difficult to see that he accomplished anything other than to cash his cheques.”

The comments were made “on the basis of information from apparently reliable and qualified sources within the British Columbia government,” the defence documents state.

The court pleadings note Horgan and Ralston both apologized to Wilson and both oppose granting the millions of dollars in damages Wilson is seeking.

A spokesperson for Wilson said the former Liberal leader will press ahead with the lawsuit, saying the attacks by Horgan and Ralston were reported in natural-gas trade publications around the world, damaging his professional reputation and causing him emotional pain and suffering.

Wilson, leader of the B.C. Liberal party from 1987 to 1993, was hired by Christy Clark's former Liberal government as LNG advocate in 2013. Wilson earlier endorsed Clark for the Liberal leadership.

No trial date has been set.