Government spent more than $213K defending Seamus O’Regan in small claims court

CBC News
Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan CBC News | James Alexander Michie

Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan. The federal government spent more than $200,000 defending O'Regan on a lawsuit filed when he was minister of Veterans Affairs. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Veterans advocate says he’s surprised by how far the government will go to avoid admitting error

The legal cost of defending Liberal cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan in a small claims court defamation case launched by a veterans advocate has now topped $213,500, according to a document tabled in the Senate.

The figure, compiled by Justice Minister David Lametti’s office, was released recently by Sen. Marc Gold, the government’s representative in the Senate, following an exchange last spring with Conservative Sen. Don Plett.

It captures the cost of litigation and support services delivered by the government lawyers and staff who worked on the lawsuit launched two years ago by Sean Bruyea, a former air force intelligence officer. Bruyea claimed O’Regan — who was the Veterans Affairs minister at the time — defamed him in a February 2018 opinion piece in The Hill Times, a parliamentary precinct publication.

The federal government agreed last June to settle the lawsuit, which originally asked for $25,000. The final settlement was paid last week. The terms were not disclosed to the public and the payment to Bruyea was not factored into the Department of Justice’s estimate of the costs.

‘This was not a frivolous claim’

“I’m floored,” Plett said Tuesday in an interview with CBC News. “I feel the government has to defend itself against frivolous claims. This was not a frivolous claim. This person was defamed by a minister and the government spent almost ten times the original claim to defend against it.”

Had the government “negotiated in good faith, this could have been dealt with honourably,” he added.

Plett said the disclosure of the figure makes him wonder how much the current government spent fighting other “questionable” high-profile cases — such as the criminal case against former vice-admiral Mark Norman, which concluded with the Crown staying the single breach of trust charge filed against the ex-commander of the navy.

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Source: Murray Brewster | CBC News

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