07.10.2014 01:51 PM

In Friday’s Sun: fair comment about Tony et al.

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.



  1. m5slib says:

    Legit question: how does it factor that they cited the bullying as being done by her team? Doesn’t necessarily point the finger at her directly, but she is ultimately responsible for her team.

  2. Ron says:

    Maybe the real reason they jettisoned Innes was:

    1. Really, actually, for real bullying. (Whatever the hell that meant)

    2. Electing Innes somehow meant electing Ianno. (In some button down minds.)

    3. Innes was also a Martinite, and the party wanted to move on .

    4. Any one of a hundred other reasons. (Real or imagined.)

    Just guessing. Maybe it will come out in court.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I think a Prime Minister said it best: if you get a call from me looking for advice — and you tell anyone, it was guaranteed that you would never hear from the PM ever again.

  4. sezme says:

    And you showed restraint in not mentioning some of the foundations for Ianno’s reputation.

    It might be sexist to say that Innes is the same as her husband (and I have no idea about that), but doesn’t it smell a little dynastic for a spouse of a former politician to run for the same office in the same riding? It rubs me the wrong way no matter what the sex of the spouse. Not that that’s got anything to do with the law.

  5. Patrick says:

    Can’t understand why it’s sexist to not want Ianno back in the Liberal fold, and I think that’s what Liberal functionaries thought that would mean if his wife got elected. I suspect Innes could have been a green hump back lemming and the party would have moved to make sure she didn’t win the ridding nomination if there was a connection to Ianno.

  6. e.a.f. says:

    using the big m word, not so much. was the decision sexist.perhaps, on the other hand, would you hire the spouse of a known embezzler as your accountant? Most likely not. It is just human nature. You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, or as Mother used to say, you are known by the company you keep.

    If I were a political leader I won’t want her either, and yes its because of the husband. I’m a feminist from way back when but there is idealism and then there is the reality of politics and life. having seen these types of things play out over the past 50 yrs, in my book, she doesn’t get the job.

    • debs says:

      I thought that too, I mean the idea of marriage holding the sins for each other, probably not, but certainly they would influence one another with decision making and it was prudent for the lib leader to base his assessments on that. Anyone would have done the same.

  7. DJ says:

    Innes could have lost. Vaughn was the most electable. He creamed Cressy. Liberals are happy.

  8. Reality.Bites says:

    I can’t comment on the legal ramifications of the whole thing, but the Liberal party is better served by having Ianno outside it. And while I might not judge a politician by their sibling (Doug and Rob Ford notwithstanding), child or parent, a spouse is different. That’s a chosen status.

    While perhaps there was a better way to handle the situation, Innes should not have been allowed to run for the Liberal Party.

  9. Tim says:

    Settling a lawsuit seems a small price to pay for what’s just been accomplished. Justin Trudeau is looking more like the real deal every day.

  10. Corey says:

    I don’t think I see the sexism angle…. Ianno was a senior operative in Innes’ campaigns, he was making calls representing her campaign. It’s no different than if the calls had been placed by a candidate’s campaign manager… It has nothing to do with him being her husband and everything to do with the fact that he was representing her campaign. Not all political husbands/wives would have been that involved.

  11. James Bowie says:

    Hey Warren. Thanks for sharing your story. You keep writing; I’ll keep reading.

    Two things:

    1. If Jean Chretien wanted to stay on until 2004, he could have done so. All he had to do was hold the leadership review that the LPC constitution requires. He declined to face the review, and left voluntarily. You may have strong feelings about how Chretien should have stayed. I congratulate you. Your feelings appear to be stronger on the matter than Mr. Chretien’s himself, who could have tried to stay, but didn’t.

    2. I am willing to make another lunch bet with you, if you’re game. I say that neither Ianno nor Innes will ever win a judgment against any of the defendants. We could even call it double-or-nothing on the Milliken detainee ruling we bet on, all those years ago.

    Hope you’re well. I see you’re up at the cottage. I am at my desk. You win at life.

    • sezme says:

      I think Chretien would very much have preferred (and had earned the right) to have left completely on his own terms rather that with the perception that he was pushed out by a cabal of over-eager weasels.

  12. terence Quinn says:

    I believe that with the riding being split the Libs may settle this by allowing Innes to run in one of the new ridings that form part of the current one.

  13. james curran says:

    Ya, well, maybe one day I can share more portions of the story with ya W. Bear in mind I know nothing.

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