Why not? I probably would if I were him.
I'm refering to the negative campaign ads that the NDP is airing on TV, and now appearing in your mailbox as well. Pretty soon there will be billboards too:
Negative ad campaigns are standard operating procedure in politics now, and to some degree people expect a level of exaggeration or half truths. That doesn't make it right, but that's the way it goes. That said, you have to draw a line somewhere unless you want to end up with swift-boat style ads dominating political campaigns.
The TV ads say "We know McFadyen would overturn water protection laws and allow e-coli and urine to pollute our rivers and lakes." Bruce Owen has already wrote about this in the Free Press:
For the record, all he’s said is that the province could save $350 million by backing off its plan to require the City of Winnipeg to remove nitrogen from its wastewater. Phosphorus should be removed, but removing nitrogen too would have a negligible effect, he says. A bunch of scientists say the same thing.Not to mention that there is already e-coli and urine polluting our rivers and lakes.
To what degree can you bend the truth in a political ad? Does there have to be at least a half truth? A shred of truth? A nugget? A photon? In civil law, the standard would certainly be set above "photon".
The Criminal Code says that defamatory libel "is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person or concerning whom it is published." I would say that the NDP ad fits that description quite well.
A valid defense against a charge of defamatory libel is truth. If what you're saying is true then you're off the hook. What the NDP ads say certainly is not. Not by any standard that would be recognized by the courts. I just don't see how McFadyen would lose if he chose to sue Selinger and the NDP for libel. That is, unless he had the misfortune of running into an NDP-friendly judge. Then it could back-fire on him in a big way.
That's risk no. 1. Risk no. 2 is that the public will view him as a pansy-ass whiner who can't take the heat of politics. Thus if he were to sue the NDP, he should do it on the down-low. Don't say anything about it publicly. Somebody will notice (probably a blogger with too much time on their hands) and it will come out with a splash. When asked about it, Hugh can play it cool and simply comment that there was no truth to the "fact" portrayed in the ads. That way he gets to confront the ads in a manner that is not forced or desperate.
The upside is huge. (Or "Hughe" in this case. Ha! See what I did there? With the "h"? You know, cause McFadyen's name is "Hugh, and um ... ya anyhow ...) Right, upside no. 1: the big kerfuffle about the untruthiness of the NDP ad will put a spotlight on the integrity of the NDP and call into question the factualness of everything else they have said.
Upside no. 2: it will bring the issue of the Water Protection Act into the front pages. The newspapers will be forced to explain what exactly Hugh called for in his press release, which will provide another opportunity to expose the collosal waste of money of removing nitrogen from the water.
Upside no. 3: should Hugh win, it could be for a substantial amount of money which could really hurt the bank balance of the NDP. The NDP could even be bankrupted if the stars aligned properly for the PCs. More than likely it would be settled out of court for some mutually agreed sum, but whatever that sum it still amounts to the NDP fundraising for the PC party.
Upside no. 4: ads are bound to be more truthful in the future.
techincal note: I don't know if a defamatory TV ad would consitute libel or slander. Libel is written, slander is spoken. TV ads are spoken, but they are read off a script, thus I am assuming libel would be the charge.