West Van Liberal candidate files claim against Conservative opponent
The hotly contested campaign battle in the West Vancouver Sea-to-Sky riding just got a bit hotter.
On Tuesday morning Liberal candidate Dan Veniez filed a notice of civil claim in the B.C. Supreme Court against four people, including Conservative incumbent John Weston.
The claim also names Coquitlam’s Paul Veltmeyer, who wrote a letter to Weston about Veniez, and John and Jane Doe, who posted a video on YouTube about Veniez’s role with a troubled forestry company.
The YouTube video is no longer online. It included Veniez’s videotaped answers to questions about pension fund policies with statements about Veniez’s involvement with Skeena group and the impact on workers’ pensions when the company went into bankruptcy.
The YouTube video was posted by “Dale 5775”. Veniez doesn’t know who “Dale 5775” is.
The claim says “the accusations contained in the YouTube video are malicious, false and made unlawfully in a deliberate attempt to damage the general reputation of [Veniez] while he is a candidate for the Parliament of Canada.”
John and Jane Doe, the claim says, want the video to affect the outcome of the May 2 election “by use of anonymous character assassination of [Veniez] with false accusations against the character and conduct of [Veniez] with false accusations of unjust enrichment of [Veniez] with pension funds, which accusations are contrary to the public record as contained in the proceedings before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.”
In a phone interview with The Outlook on Tuesday, Veniez said he, along with former partner George Petty, took the mill out of bankruptcy in 2002 and returned into bankruptcy two years later after an exhaustive search for additional funding partners. At no point, Veniez said, did he or Petty have access to or control of any pension funds of any employees or former employees of the Skeena Group.
The claim says that in April, Paul Veltmeyer wrote a letter to Weston. The claim says that Veltmeyer wrote “I understand that while Dan [Veniez] was in charge of the Ridley Island Terminal in Prince Rupert, a podcast is that the Conservative government appointed him to, that he was even planning to sell the terminal to a company that he had an interest in.”
The claim says that Veltmeyer’s statement that Veniez “was planning on selling the Ridley Island Terminal to a company that he had a interest in was false and defamatory of [Veniez] and was a malicious effort by the Defendant Veltmeyer to damage the reputation and character of [Veniez] while [Veniez] was a candidate for the Parliament of Canada by alleging that [Veniez] breached his fiduciary duties as a director of a Crown Corporation by attempting to enrich himself at the expense of the Crown.”
The Veltmeyer letter also included a link to the YouTube video, the claim says. Veltmeyer’s letter, the claim says, was distributed at an all-candidates’ meeting in Sechelt and Gibsons on April 18 by “agents of the Defendant John Weston, with the approval of the Defendant John Weston and/or his agents.”
The claim says that on April 15, 2011, the contents of the video were posted on a Facebook page called John Weston Nation. The claim says Weston wrote on the page that “I was not aware of these details about Dan Veniez’s actions with Skeena a corporation that went into bankruptcy and forfeited its unprotected employee pensions but not before he withdrew >$200K in personal wages himself. If you intend to support him, please watch this video so you stand informed.”
The claim says that Weston is a barrister and solicitor and “has a higher duty of care as a officer of the Court in dealing with allegations of unlawful conversion or unjust enrichment of pension funds against [Veniez] which are unsupported in fact and never raised in the Court proceedings over 7 years.”
The claim says that the bankruptcy of the Skeena group was supervised by the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, Ernst & Young and the Supreme Court of British Columbia. “Throughout the lengthy Court proceedings... there were never any allegations of the Plaintiff unjustly enriching himself from pensioner trust funds.”
These are unproven allegations and no defence has yet been filed.
On Thursday, John Weston's campaign office issued a press release saying the accusations were false.
In a telephone interview with The Outlook, Weston says the claim looks “like [a] desperate measure in a dying campaign. I characterize our campaign as upbeat and positive and will continue to focus on the positive things that have come to our riding.
“We have not been involved in the creation of these documents,” Weston says. “He could have responded years ago to the questions and is only doing it now.”
Last week, Veniez filed a complaint with Elections Canada about the matter and requested an apology from the Weston camp.