Appeal granted in Tory suit

Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory. (Sun File Photo)

Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory. (Sun File Photo)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory will head into an election campaign next year accused of misrepresenting the finances of the Canadian Football League.

The allegation against Tory, a former CFL commissioner and board chairperson, was given second life yesterday by Ontario's highest court.

Accusing Tory is his replacement as commissioner, Mike Lysko, who is seeking about $19 million in damages from the league, team owners and those he said were involved in his selection. The athletic director at the University of Western Ontario, Lysko was dismissed as commissioner in 2002.

His lawsuit was dealt a blow two years ago when a Superior Court Justice rejected many of the claims in his lawsuit, including those against Tory.

But yesterday, the Ontario Court of Appeal reinstated many of the claims against a variety of defendants, including one that Tory negligently misrepresented the league's finances to Lysko.

Lysko's allegations are made in a statement of claim not yet tested in court. A statement of defence hasn't been filed but Tory spokesperson Brendan Howe yesterday called the lawsuit a "fishing expedition.

"John Tory will vigorously defend himself against these claims that are totally without merit. Mr. Lysko is suing everyone whose name he can remember from the CFL," Howe said.

Madame Justice Wailan Low of the lower court had concluded Tory didn't have to be responsible in what he said to Lysko because "one is simply a candidate for the other's job."

Her conclusion was rejected by the appeal court.

"The occasion of the meeting between (Lysko) and Tory was not an idle meet and greet. It is reasonable to assume that (others) arranged the meeting so that Tory could confirm the representations made by the members of the (CFL) search committee," wrote Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Marc Rosenberg.

Yesterday's decision didn't judge whether Lysko might succeed or fail in his claims -- it merely concluded that as long as the claims, if true, had some possibility of success, the lawsuit should proceed.

With final rulings perhaps years away, yesterday's order shouldn't damage Tory's bid to become Ontario's next premier in the October 2007 election, said Paul Nesbitt-Larking, a political scientist at Huron University College.

But it might keep him and his supporters from making an election issue out of the resignation of former Liberal finance minister Greg Sorbara. He resigned in October, maintaining he did nothing wrong, after the RCMP raided his family's company as it investigated Royal Group Technologies, a firm for which Sorbara acted as director.

"If Mr. Tory tries to make something of Mr. Sorbara, then this whole business can be used to counter that," Nesbitt-Larking said.

Tory was not the leader of the Ontario Tories when, in 2000, the CFL hired Lysko.

Lysko said yesterday he is pleased with the latest court decision.

"I view this decision as an important step in the right direction for moving this case forward," he said.


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