Winnipeg mayoral candidate Don Woodstock has been served with a defamation lawsuit over comments he made this month about opponent Jenny Motkaluk’s brother during a public forum.
In a statement of claim, Woodstock is accused of damaging the reputations of John Motkaluk, Bayview Construction Ltd. and Rocky Road Recycling Ltd. and their fellow owners.
The claim, filed Wednesday in the Court of King’s Bench, names the companies as plaintiffs, along with vice-presidents John Motkaluk and Jeff Krawetz, and president Blake Karschuk.
They are seeking damages and costs against Woodstock, who said he plans to file a statement of defence within the 20-day window.
The lawsuit stems from exchanges among the nine mayoral candidates who took part in the seniors forum in East Kildonan on Sept. 7.
In front of a crowd of about 40, Woodstock told Jenny Motkaluk she would need to “rein in” her brother if she is elected mayor in the Oct. 26 municipal vote, according to the lawsuit.
Motkaluk rejected the suggestion of a potential conflict of interest, telling Woodstock her brother’s construction business would face “the same rules and requirements” as other companies which are contracted by the city.
Woodstock also mentioned her brother while responding to a question about recycling crushed rock to fill and pave roads.
“The defendant then said that the only reason why these funds of some tens of millions of dollars being misspent was because of ‘mean people like Jenny’s brother,’” the lawsuit states.
Motkaluk interjected when Woodstock mentioned her brother’s name again, and soon after walked out with her team, while time remained in the forum.
The lawsuit claims Woodstock’s remarks were “defamatory and untrue,” and put the reputations of the plaintiffs “into dire danger.”
It also alleges his comments were intended to “interrupt” the plaintiffs’ relationships with the City of Winnipeg’s contracting departments.
As a result, the plaintiffs have been “the subject of odium and contempt,” according to the statement of claim.
“The language employed by the defendant was meant to imply that the plaintiffs were improperly and unethically overcharging the City of Winnipeg for recycled crushed concrete,” the document states. “The defendant knew at all times that his comments were meant to be that the plaintiffs, and in particular John Motkaluk and Rocky Road Recycling Ltd., were acting unethically and dishonestly.”
In addition to doing sewer and water projects, Rocky Road has a crushing facility which recycles concrete and asphalt for the construction industry.
Lawyer Robert Tapper, who is representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment.
Jenny Motkaluk told the Free Press the lawsuit has “nothing” to do with her, and she would prefer to discuss her mayoral campaign.
Woodstock, one of 15 registered candidates, said he received the statement of claim Thursday.
He previously shared an email, which threatened civil action, he received from Tapper after the forum.
“I’m going to mount a very, very, very, very, very strong legal case as to why I, as a taxpayer, did ask a legitimate question and propose a legitimate position,” said Woodstock. “That’s going to be a very interesting case.”
And one he’s taking very seriously.
“It could cost me my livelihood; it could cost me my business,” said the security firm owner.
His wife and business partner, Kathy Harris, said she had just “a second of worry” about the legal action.
“This man has the touch — like God is definitely looking out for him,” she said, after they learned he was being sued. “Whatever happens with this suit, will be what is supposed to happen. I truly believe that we’ll be at the better end of it.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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