Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s former chief of staff, who recently resigned amid a patronage scandal, has dropped his defamation lawsuit against independent MPP Randy Hillier.
Dean French launched the $100,000 lawsuit over a series of social-media posts by Mr. Hillier, a maverick MPP (Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston) who was ejected from the Progressive Conservative caucus in March.
Mr. French had pledged to donate any proceeds to charity.
The decision to drop the lawsuit comes a month after he resigned as Mr. Ford’s chief of staff amid a patronage scandal – and after the PC Party announced it would not be paying any of Mr. French’s legal bills in the case.
Mr. French’s lawyer, Gavin Tighe, said his client is “grateful” that Mr. Hillier has taken down the defamatory tweets.
“Given that Mr. French is no longer involved with government and there were never any monetary damages sought by Mr. French personally … there was little point in carrying on with expensive and time consuming litigation,” Mr. Tighe, who has also represented the Ford family, said in an e-mail.
Mr. Hillier said in a statement that he is happy to turn the page.
“While Mr. French and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things, I am glad we have found something we can agree on,” he said.
The Premier’s Office declined to comment Monday.
Mr. French had alleged that Mr. Hillier waged a “baseless” campaign against him, “fuelled by a misguided personal vendetta and grudge” that aimed to make the Premier’s top aide a “scapegoat” for Mr. Hillier’s exile from caucus.
Mr. Hillier, an outspoken critic of Mr. French’s “heavy-handed tactics” in the Premier’s Office, said the lawsuit was a strategic move meant to silence his criticism of the government.
In Twitter posts that he later removed, Mr. Hillier alleged that an e-mail domain owned by Mr. French was implicated in electoral fraud in Alberta. Mr. Hillier also alleged that Mr. French was responsible for the destruction of Ontario PC leadership ballots after Mr. Ford’s narrow win last year. Mr. French said both allegations are false. None of the allegations have been proven.
Mr. French’s statement of claim also points to comments such as Mr. Hillier’s claim that Mr. French had created a “culture of fear and intimidation” in caucus.
The claim further cites Mr. Hillier’s “unsupported allegations of ‘possible illegal and unregistered lobbying.’”
In March, Mr. Hillier said he raised those unspecified allegations with the Integrity Commissioner. Mr. Ford has vehemently denied that any such lobbying took place.
Mr. Hillier was suspended from caucus in February after allegedly saying, “yada yada yada” to parents upset over changes to autism funding, something he denies. He blamed his exile on tensions with Mr. French and Chris Froggatt, who owns a lobbying firm and is a member of Mr. Ford’s election readiness committee. The following month, Mr. Hillier was permanently ejected for allegedly skipping caucus meetings and taking his complaints about the government to the media.