Maxime Bernier ordered to pay consultant for legal costs of failed defamation case

16 March 2022 2 min. read
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Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, was on Monday ordered by an Ontario court to pay $132,000 in legal costs after a failed defamation lawsuit against Warren Kinsella, a consultant and political columnist.

The lawsuit was dismissed in an earlier November 2021 ruling after Kinsella’s lawyers successfully argued that the suit should be scrapped due to anti-SLAAP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation. 

“The legislation seeks to ensure that unmeritorious litigation cannot be used as a weapon to stifle constitutionally protected speech,” the Ontario Superior Court ruling stated.

A successful anti-SLAAP motion is generally followed by an order to repay all or most of the defendant’s legal costs. The $132,000 was just $5,000 short of Kinsella's total legal costs.

Maxime Bernier ordered to pay consultant for legal costs of failed defamation case

Kinsella leads Daisy Group, a Toronto-based strategy and public affairs consulting firm. The Globe and Mail in 2019 reported that the Conservative Party hired the firm in advance of the federal election to discredit Bernier and his party. That campaign, entitled “Project Cactus,” put out social media posts that generally portrayed Bernier and his party as racist. Bernier subsequently filed a defamation suit against Kinsella.

“As with our victory in November, this decision makes clear that politicians and powerful interests need to think twice before they try to use libel laws to silence legitimate critics,” Kinsella’s lawyer David Shiller said in a statement.

Kinsella founded Daisy Group in 2006. The firm’s team of seven consultants provide services in public relations, government relations, issue management, brand management, speech writing, public consultations, and focus groups.

Kinsella was special assistant to Jean Chretien between 1990 and 1993. When Chretien was elected PM, he served as chief of staff in several federal ministries.

In 2003, 2007, and 2011, Kinsella was chairman of the war room in the successful Ontario Liberal Party election campaigns and managed the federal Liberal Party’s war rooms in 1993 and 2000. In 2018, he helped oversee Toronto Mayor John Tory’s winning campaign.

He has been a columnist with numerous publications, including the Ottawa Citizen, Hill Times, and National Post. Kinsella is also the author of ten books, including his most recent work “Age of Unreason.”