Dr. Bratt made it clear in his Statement of Defence that he intends to defend himself vigorously against Mr. Chandler’s lawsuit.
Mr. Chandler is well known in Alberta for his strong right-wing political views and controversial public statements, such as accusing an Alberta restaurant chain of supporting terrorism after it bought supplies from a meatpacker that also sold halal beef and stating that newcomers to Alberta should vote Conservative or leave.
Dr. Bratt is probably Alberta’s highest-profile and most quoted political scientist.
Journalists frequently quote him because his comments are trenchant and his analysis is widely respected.
In late August, Dr. Bratt had answered questions from Calgary City News and CTV reporters about several phone calls purporting to be from Danielle Smith’s campaign to lead the United Conservative Party.
Mr. Chandler is executive director of an organization called the Progressive Group for Independent Business, which at the time was running Ms. Smith’s campaign call centre, City News reported on Aug. 22.
Some of the comments made by Dr. Bratt about the phone calls are the words complained of in Mr. Chandler’s Sept. 9 Statement of Claim.
Dr. Bratt quickly responded Wednesday to Mr. Chandler’s public revelation of the lawsuit with a series of statements on Twitter that were widely retweeted and commented upon. Dr. Bratt’s tweet thread starts here.
In his Statement of Claim, Mr. Chandler also named Mount Royal University, Dr. Bratt’s employer, and a private citizen who had received calls purporting to be from the Smith campaign and commented publicly on them.
The vigorous discussion of Mr. Chandler’s lawsuit that immediately ensued on Facebook and Twitter quickly expanded to include the idea that, like other jurisdictions, Alberta should adopt anti-SLAPP legislation.
SLAPP suits – the acronym stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – are defined as “lawsuits intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.” In Canada, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have introduced legislation to restrict the practice. Alberta has not.
“This is a SLAPP suit designed to silence me,” Dr. Bratt said in his tweet thread. “I may have been temporarily silenced, on this matter, but not other politics, based on legal advice, but not for long. There is no merit to the case. Everything I said was fair comment as a longtime political commentator.”
“A statement of defence has been filed, so is now public record,” he said in another tweet. “And I reiterate that what I said was fair comment, nuanced, and appropriate. Chandler’s suit has no merit and is designed to prevent me from talking. It is the very definition of a SLAPP suit.”
Dr. Bratt said he was served with the legal papers personally by Mr. Chandler during a Faculty of Arts reception at Mount Royal College.
Meanwhile, another story published Wednesday by the CBC involving the Smith campaign’s call centre, Mr. Chandler, and former Alberta justice minister Jonathan Denis resulted in Ms. Smith announcing she had terminated her campaign’s contract with Mr. Chandler’s organization.
In the CBC story, Mr. Denis apologized for three videos that were posted on social media over several recent days featuring crude imitations of Indigenous voices and including references to alcohol and casinos.
“I have no recollection of these events, however, it is possible I said them years ago while under the influence of alcohol. If so, I am truly sorry,” Mr. Denis said in a statement he sent to CBC Calgary News.
Mr. Chandler told the CBC he was pictured in one of the videos, made during a barbecue at his place. He told the CBC that no prank call was made in that video.
“I have been made aware of an appalling clip involving a phone bank contractor we engaged to assist our campaign that I feel is offensive and entirely unacceptable,” Ms. Smith said in the first of three tweets on the topic Wednesday.
“I will not be associated with such behaviour and have instructed … my campaign to immediately terminate any contract or other dealings with the involved company,” she continued.
“To be clear, the former Justice Minister in the clip has never had any role in my campaign,” Ms. Smith added in the third and final tweet. Mr. Denis was named justice minister in May 2012 by Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford soon after the election in which Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party was defeated.
In the CBC story, Mr. Chandler was quoted as saying, “Some comedy is not politically correct, but this is a private function of my close friends. … Quite frankly, this cancel culture is killing society … I should be able to joke on an issue in the confines of my own home.”
Mr. Denis, who practices law in Calgary, volunteered on federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s successful recent leadership campaign.
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