On Dec. 27, Ontario Superior Court Justice John Macdonald concluded that Mayor Rob Ford did not make any statements that defamed Boardwalk Cafe’s owner George Foulidis.
The decision was made after a trial that lasted less than two weeks last November.
Foulidis accused Ford of making statements to a daily newspaper which implied that the deal between Tuggs Inc., the parent company of Boardwalk Cafe, and the City of Toronto was corrupt.
In his statements, made during his mayoral campaign back in 2010, Ford used the words “corruption” and “skulduggery” surrounding the “behind closed doors” deal that was made between Tuggs Inc. and the City.
But, according to Macdonald, Foulidis failed to prove that the reference to Tuggs Inc. was in reference to Foulidis himself.
“Mr. Ford did not identify Mr. Foulidis as Tuggs Inc.’s owner or otherwise speak of him personally,” stated Macdonald in his 15-page decision document. He further explained that he “rejected as incredible the plaintiff’s testimony that he was, at any relevant time, an officer, director or shareholder of Tuggs Inc.”
Macdonald also pointed out in his decision that Foulidis tried to mislead the court in relation to his involvement in a fraud case in the past, and said that he was “left with serious doubt about the credibility and reliability of his testimony.”
But the deciding factor was the wording used by Ford in his statements, and the fact he never referred to Foulidis by name. Ford said, “I can’t accuse anyone or I can’t pinpoint it, but why do we have to go in-camera on the Tuggs deal?” That statement, according to Macdonald, means that Ford “could not, and therefore was not blaming or charging any person with fault.”
“In my opinion, the reasonable reader would have concluded that the statements in issue, read as whole and understood as aforesaid, did not defame the plaintiff, even if it is assumed that the statements were about him,” concluded Macdonald.
Macdonald also went on to explain that if the allegations did affect Foulidis’ business and character, that the damages “are properly assessed at $20,000” as opposed to the $6 million that Foulidis was seeking.
Foulidis is expected to pay for the defence costs, which could be upwards of $100,000.
In an emailed statement, Foulidis said that “without a doubt, the decision is very disappointing.” He did not comment on the possibility of an appeal as he is still reviewing the case with his lawyers.
“There is [a] considerable financial impact,” he added.