The last time I spoke with Tony Ianno – and, for all practical purposes, the first time, too – was in a downtown Toronto food court. It didn’t go well.
It was 2002. We had both been at some political event, and I had stopped at a subterranean food court for a burger on the way back to my Bay Street law firm. Ianno saw me, I invited him to join me, and it all kind of went downhill from there.
Tony, you see, was then a Liberal MP, representing Trinity-Spadina. He was big on Paul Martin, and quite eager to see Jean Chretien disappear. I, meanwhile, was a former Chretien aide, and I then (as now) clung to the possibly-naïve view that several million Canadians had given Chretien a big majority government mandate in 2000, and he was entitled to serve all four years of it.
Tony, as noted, wanted Chretien out, toute de suite, so that Martin could make good on his promise to elevate to cabinet every single one of the several dozen MPs who had pledged fealty to him. But he was irritated about something else, too: Tony apparently was of the view that I was personally responsible for the elevation of Maurizio Bevilacqua to cabinet earlier that year.
Tony considered my friend Maurizio a rival, it tuned out. He felt he should be in cabinet, and not Maurizio, even though he had been more or less openly agitating for Chretien to quit. And it was all my fault.
Now, I didn’t read out loud the dictionary definition of “disloyalty,” at that moment, but I certainly considered it. Instead, I merely pointed out the truth: I lacked any such power. Chretien, like all good Prime Ministers, receives advice from God-knows-who, and he makes his own decisions. That’s it.
Tony Ianno was angry, and he wasn’t buying it. We agreed to disagree, and parted ways. The next time I heard about him, Prime Ministerial Blip Paul Martin hadn’t made him anything more senior than “the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers,” whatever that is. He then lost his seat to the New Democrats in 2006, and he sort of disappeared.
This week, as you may have noticed, Tony Ianno was back in the headlines. He has decided to sue a Liberal Party functionary for allegedly damaging his reputation. In so doing, he was joining his wife, Christine Innes, who is suing the same functionary for defamation – as well as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.
As someone who has practiced a bit of libel law, and who knows a little bit more about it, I think – my fair comment, if you will – Innes has a good case. She was apparently denied an opportunity to run for the Liberals in Trinity-Spadina because of the alleged sins of Ianno, not her (to wit, he was supposedly mean to some Young Liberals). She was characterized, nation-wide, in very unflattering way by he current Liberal regime.
Along with being arguably defamatory – it identified her, it caused damage, and it had a tendency to harm her reputation – it was also flagrantly sexist.
Innes, who I have never met, was being condemned for the alleged actions of her husband. Not, it should be noted, her own. That’s unfair. It’s also sexism bordering on misogyny.
So, like I say, I think Innes has a good shot at victory. Her husband? Maybe not so much.
Defamation is a legal tort, designed to repair damaged reputations. Christine Innes’ reputation was indisputably damaged.
And Tony Ianno’s reputation? It was already well-established – long, long before now.