PC staffer fired over Freedom Convoy donation suing Ford, journalists
A Queen’s Park staffer fired for donating to the Freedom Convoy in February is suing PC Leader Doug Ford and his chief of staff, along with the Torstar journalists who broke the story, alleging her career was “destroyed” for “political gain.”
Marion Isabeau-Ringuette, who worked as director of communications for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, is seeking nearly $2 million in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, claiming damages to her reputation, wrongful dismissal and invasion of privacy.
Isabeau-Ringuette’s $100 donation to the Freedom Convoy was reported by QP Briefing journalists Charlie Pinkerton and Andy Takagi on February 15, after leaked documents from the crowdfunding website GiveSendGo revealed a list of donors to the weeks-long movement that clogged the streets of downtown Ottawa.
In the statement of claim, obtained by Queen’s Park Today, Isabeau-Ringuette’s legal counsel said she donated to the movement on February 5 with “every expectation that her donation would be private and confidential” and under the assumption it was “both legal and in accordance with Ontario government policy at the time it was made.”
“At that time, there was no Ontario government policy against the Freedom Convoy,” her lawyer states in the filing, citing a January 28 radio interview in which Ford told AM800 CKOW, “I always say I support the truckers, but I also support getting vaccinated.”
Despite the City of Ottawa declaring a state of emergency on February 6, her court filing claims the premier’s office “stated that Ontario’s strategy ‘remains to stay out of this.’”
“On February 7, 2022, Ontario received a request from the federal government to attend at a tripartite table with the federal government and the City of Ottawa,” reads the statement of claim. “Premier Ford’s direction was that Ontario was not to get involved.”
At the time, Ford faced criticism for his government’s decision to abstain from three trilateral meetings with the federal government and City of Ottawa regarding the crisis.
Premier’s office ‘wanted to be seen as acting quickly,’ lawsuit alleges
Isabeau-Ringuette’s attorney alleges she was fired within minutes after Pinkerton sought comment about her name’s appearance on the leaked donor list from the premier’s office on February 15. The statement of claim alleges her supervisor, David Garland, informed Isabeau-Ringuette that Ford’s office “had fired her because they wanted to be seen as acting ‘quickly.’”
“The Ontario government responded to Pinkerton’s email expressly or implicitly confirming that Ms. Ringuette was the individual whose private confidential information had been stolen and advising Pinkerton that she had been fired from her position at the Ontario Public Service,” court documents state.
“In doing so, the Ontario government participated in the public disclosure of Ms. Ringuette’s stolen private confidential information and the invasion of her privacy. In under one-half hour, Ms. Ringuette’s promising career in the Ontario Public Service had been destroyed.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Queen’s Park Today reached out to a spokesperson for Ford for comment, in addition to Isabeau-Ringuette’s lawyer, but did not receive a response by deadline. Torstar, which owns QP Briefing, was also not immediately available to comment.
Isabeau-Ringuette alleges ‘callous, high handed, and malicious’ actions
The former staffer, who had been working for the Ford government since August 2018, alleged the premier and his chief of staff Jamie Wallace acted in “the utmost bad faith” by having “deliberately decided to confirm Ms. Ringuette’s identity and to advise that she was no longer an employee of the Ontario Public Service for their own personal political gain.”
“Premier Ford and James Wallace decided to end Ms. Ringuette’s career at the Ontario Public Service because they believed it to be politically expedient for them,” the statement of claim reads.
“A provincial election was imminent and Premier Ford’s decision to terminate Ms. Ringuette’s employment was based on his and his campaign team’s belief that it would benefit him politically to, finally, oppose the Freedom Convoy.”
The province didn’t take firm action against the convoy protests until February 10, when it obtained a legal order to prevent donations made to the movement from being used. The following day, Ford declared a provincewide emergency.
Isabeau-Ringuette’s lawsuit alleges Pinkerton and Takagi “acted with malice” by contacting the premier’s office “about such a politically controversial matter” because they should have known it would jeopardize her employment. The statement of claim notes Pinkerton contacted Isabeau-Ringuette multiple times via phone, email and text message for comment before the story was published.
Ford, Wallace, and other defendants “knew or should have known that such a dismissal would be widely reported and that the dismissal would be regarded by the public as a result of an illegal or improper act by Ms. Ringuette when in fact she had done nothing wrong,” per the filing.
The claim seeks $450,000 from Ford, Wallace and the Crown for wrongful dismissal and reputational damages, as well as $1.5 million and legal fees from that group, plus Torstar, Pinkerton and Takagi for “invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, damage to reputation, and emotional distress,” aggravated damages, and punitive damages.
Isabeau-Ringuette’s salary at the time of her dismissal was $105,000, per the legal filing.
The Ontario election campaign officially kicked off Wednesday.