A BC Supreme Court judge has ordered a reporter to reveal the source of information for a story about former Liberal MP Blair Wilson.
Justice Paul Williamson ordered Province reporter Elaine O’Connor to name the person who gave her a copy of an anonymous report alleging Wilson, then MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, had violated the Elections Act by not declaring campaign expenses correctly. The allegations were also sent anonymously to Elections Canada and a political blogger, who published the three-page letter on his website.
The allegations were part of a Province story published in October 2007 that also included allegations by Wilson’s father-in-law, William Lougheed, that Wilson and his wife owed him millions of dollars.
After the article was published, Wilson was forced to resign from the Liberal caucus. He ran in the next federal election as a Green Party candidate and lost. Elections Canada investigated the allegations, determined Wilson had made only minor errors in reporting and did not charge him for any offences.
Wilson sued the Province for defamation. He also named Judi Tyabji Wilson, a former Liberal MLA and party executive, her company, Tugboat Enterprises Ltd., Liberal Mark Marissen and blogger, Steve Janke.
The ruling, released on December 31, was part of pre-trial proceedings during which Wilson demanded to know the name of the anonymous source of the Elections Canada letter, identified only as a “citizen in the riding.”
O’Connor refused to name the source, saying she had received the information after promising confidentiality.
Williamson found the identity of the source to be crucial to the defamation case because it would address the question of whether the person who provided the report did so because it was in the public interest or whether they were motivated by personal or political malice toward Wilson.
“Is the source a person who felt compelled by his or her civic responsibility to disclose inappropriate activity or wrongdoing in the political system, or is that source involved in a malicious intra-family squabble and promulgating information for purposes related to personal gain and/or vindictiveness?” Williamson wrote.
“If the source is a participant in a scheme to favour the interests of one side in an acrimonious family dispute, or is a participant in a politically motivated scheme to damage and discredit an elected politician, then the public interest in fostering the proper administration of justice outweighs the public interest in protecting a journalist’s anonymous source.”
Wilson’s wife, Kelly, has been involved in a series of legal battles with her stepfather, Lougheed.
The Province has said it will appeal the ruling.
A decision involving Wilson’s wife and her stepfather was also released the same day. BC Supreme Court Justice Sandra Ballance awarded Kelly a $5.5 million settlement from her late mother’s estate, varying the will of Norma Lougheed.