Ontario's highest court upheld a legal victory Tuesday for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford against a restaurant owner who had sued him for defamation.
In the same decision, the Court of Appeal for Ontario suggested it is ``puzzling'' that Ford's brother, who made similar comments, was not also sued.
George Foulidis had sued Rob Ford over comments the mayor made to the Toronto Sun, when he was a city councillor, suggesting an untendered, 20-year leasing deal between Foulidis's company, Tuggs Inc., and the city was corrupt, saying that it ``stinks to high heaven.''
A lower-court judge dismissed the lawsuit in December 2012, ruling that Foulidis did not prove the comments were directed at him nor that they were defamatory.
Foulidis appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed it in a ruling released Tuesday. The three-judge panel wrote that it is fair to infer that Ford's comments were not critical of Foulidis personally, but were rather directed at the company and city council. It also noted that Ford ``used strong limiting language,'' in saying in the same interview ``I can't accuse anyone.''
``The trial judge carefully and comprehensively examined Mr. Ford's actual words, their ordinary meaning, and the context in which they were delivered,'' the Appeal Court wrote.
``He concluded that Mr. Ford 'voiced only a suspicion of corruption,' that the focus of his words was on the decision-making process at city council and that the word 'corruption' was linked to council's in camera meetings, and, importantly, that Mr. Ford explicitly disavowed accusing anyone of corruption, thereby 'clearly and explicitly prevent[ing] any defamatory meaning being perceived in his suspicion of corruption.'''
That conclusion was ``entirely open'' to the trial judge, the Appeal Court wrote.
The court also wrote in its decision that the mayor's brother, Doug Ford, who is now a city councillor, was part of the same interview and said: ``how about a 20-year untendered bid at a lower cost and then you find out the owner's contributing to the guys who are voting for him?''
It ``deserves to be noted,'' the Appeal Court wrote, that two people spoke in the portion of the interview about the Tuggs lease renewal. There is a ``world of difference'' between what each Ford said, the Appeal Court wrote.
``In the end, we are left with a lone and puzzling plaintiff, George Foulidis,'' the court wrote.
``Where is Tuggs Inc.? We are also left with a lone and puzzling defendant, Robert Ford. Where is the Toronto Sun or even Doug Ford?''