Cabana tangles with Dunderdale and French in Supreme Court

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on February 24, 2016
Blogger and onetime politician Brad Cabana prepares to represent himself in Supreme Court Wednesday as part of a defamation lawsuit against former cabinet minister Terry French and former premier Kathy Dunderdale (right).
James McLeod/The Telegram

Blogger and erstwhile political aspirant Brad Cabana questioned former premier Kathy Dunderdale under oath in Supreme Court in St. John’s Wednesday morning.

Cabana is representing himself in a lawsuit against the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Dunderdale and former cabinet minister Terry French.

At the centre of the case is a comment French made about Cabana on VOCM radio in 2011, in the midst of Cabana’s convoluted political career.

Cabana was a political unknown in January 2011 when he emerged to seek the leadership of the PC party against then-premier Dunderdale, who was serving as interim leader following the resignation of former premier Danny Williams.

Cabana’s Tory leadership bid was derailed due to problems with the signatures on his nomination form, and he was disqualified.

Later the same year, he switched allegiances and went after the Liberal leadership — again unsuccessfully.

It was around this time that French made the disparaging comments in question — calling Cabana a “waste of space” and a “political scumbag,” according the Cabana’s statement of claim. Both terms were repeated many times during testimony in court Wednesday.

French also called people like Cabana “political prostitutes” — another term which is at the centre of the defamation case.

In recent years, Cabana has also made a name for himself as a litigant; in addition to the Dunderdale/French defamation lawsuit, Cabana unsuccessfully attempted to get an injunction to stop the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on constitutional grounds, and he is still being sued by Williams for a different defamation case.

In all of these cases, Cabana has represented himself.

Construction continues apace on the Muskrat Falls project.

In court Wednesday, things started off on a moment of confusion, as Cabana asked for members of the media and other observers to be kicked out of court, saying he had to discuss some sort of personal medical issue with the judge and two other lawyers.

After about an hour of closed-door conferring, things got underway with Cabana questioning Dunderdale on the stand.

His questioning covered a wide range of issues — everything from reading sections from the MHAs’ code of conduct to Dunderdale, to questions about an incident in 2011 in which Cabana alleges the Tories sent a staffer to his house to threaten him and dissuade him from running for the PC party leadership.

On the specific matter of French’s phone call to VOCM’s “Backtalk,” Dunderdale said the comments were nothing more than normal political back-and-forth.

“There’s a cut and thrust to politics, Mr. Cabana. You were in the political arena,” Dunderdale said.

Apart from Dunderdale, VOCM “Open Line” host Paddy Daly has also testified in the case, as has Cabana’s wife.

During Cabana's questioning, he frequently took long pauses between questions, and seemed to struggle to find the necessary documents to aid him in his questioning.

More than once, he ran into issues with asking leading questions, or running afoul of the rules of court.

In the afternoon, Cabana questioned French directly, and again the line of questioning was meandering and all over the political map.

French said he would have described anybody who would change parties as a “political prostitute,” and he chuckled and agreed when Cabana asked whether former politicians Ross Wiseman and John Crosbie, as well as current MHA Paul Lane, would all fit the bill.

Late in the afternoon, Cabana was chastised by Justice Robert Stack, who took issue with one line of questioning, saying, “You’re pulling little pieces of words out of context.”

The trial continues with more testimony from French Thursday morning.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames