Olivia Chow’s mayoral candidacy has an unintended consequence: a lawsuit against Justin Trudeau

Olivia Chow’s mayoral candidacy has an unintended consequence: a lawsuit against Justin Trudeau

Christine Innis. (Image: Christine Innis/Facebook)

It’s not Olivia Chow’s fault that Justin Trudeau is being sued by a would-be federal candidate—but, at the same time, it’s not not her fault.

The trouble started in March, when Chow resigned from her position as an NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina, a downtown riding, in order to run for mayor. Christine Innes, who challenged Chow unsuccessfully in the past two federal elections, was quickly barred by Liberal leadership from making a by-election run for the now-empty seat. The reason given was that Innes’s husband, former Trinity-Spadina MP Tony Ianno, had engaged in “intimidation and bullying” in an attempt to rally support for his wife.

Whatever personal problems may have contributed to the decision, there were also some political issues underpinning it. Toronto’s federal ridings will be redistributed in 2015, meaning Trinity-Spadina will be replaced by a new riding, with new borders. Redistributions can result in bitter nomination battles between incumbents from the same party, who are forced to squabble over a patch of land that includes parts of both of their former ridings. Immediately after Innes’ situation became known to the press, there was speculation that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s real motive in preventing her from running was making sure she wouldn’t oppose Chrystia Freeland—MP for Toronto Centre and a rising star in the party—in the next election. Trudeau had specifically said he wouldn’t interfere in local nomination races, though he’d left himself some wiggle room on that commitment.

Late yesterday, Innes announced that she’s suing both Trudeau and Liberal provincial co-chair David MacNaughton. She claims that the accusations of bullying and intimidation were a defamatory “smokescreen,” and that the real reason she was prevented from running was that she refused to agree not to fight for a nomination in University-Rosedale, one of Toronto’s yet-to-be-established new ridings, which the party hopes to turn into Freeland’s domain in 2015. (Innes claims she was offered Spadina-Fort York, instead.)

Innes is reportedly seeking $1.5 million. That’s about nine years’ worth of salary for a backbench MP.