A Toronto court heard closing statements Monday during the $6-million defamation lawsuit against Mayor Rob Ford.
Plaintiff George Foulidis’ lawyer argued that Mayor Rob Ford’s campaign promise to stop excessive spending, or the so-called “gravy train,” at city hall may have helped him win the mayoral election two years ago, but it also cost his client his reputation.
During the 2010 mayoral election, Ford spoke out about a sole-sourced, untendered, 20-year lease deal between the city and Foulidis’ Boardwalk Cafe – a restaurant located near Ashbridges Bay on public land.
In an editorial meeting with the Toronto Sun, Ford commented that the deal “stinks to high heaven,” suggesting the deal was corrupt.
Ford was later paraphrased in an article published in the paper.
Foulidis’ layer Brian Shiller said that without any concrete proof to support these claims, Ford’s words were “opportunist.”
"This is not about genuinely looking into criminality," Shiller said Friday in his closing arguments. "It's about seeking votes and winning elections, and the roadkill is Mr. Foulidis."
Shiller said that Ford was simply expressing his dislike for the lack of procedure surrounding the deal and while the mayor was entitled to have that view, he went too far when the issue was used for political gain.
"He was making an election issue as sensational as possible to garner attention and the votes of the citizens of Toronto who shared his view that ... city hall needed to be cleaned up," Shiller said.
But Ford’s lawyer Gavin Tighe raised the defence of fair comment and argued that Ford’s comments were opinion.
Tighe argued that according to defamation case law from the Supreme Court of Canada, Ford’s remarks are not libellous unless the main intention was to hurt Foulidis.
Throughout the trial, Tighe has maintained that Ford’s words were aimed at the workings of city hall and not Foulidis.
He also argued that under free speech laws, Ford had the right to state his opinion as long as it is grounded in some facts.
Foulidis alleges that Ford libelled him during the editorial board meeting with the Toronto Sun.
Foulidis gave the city a proposal for extending his 20-year lease for his restaurant for another 20 years rather than proceed with a tendering process.
City council eventually approved the deal, but Ford did not. He later commented on the proceedings.
"These in-camera meetings, there's more corruption and skulduggery going on in there than I've ever seen in my life," Ford told the paper’s editorial board. "And if Tuggs isn't then I don't know what is."
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson and files from The Canadian Press