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UPDATE: P.E.I. house speaker rules no evidence of threats of legal action against MLAs

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Speaker Buck Watts says he didn’t see any evidence of threats of legal action against two Opposition MLAs from private citizens recently.

Watts delivered his ruling Thursday after MLAs Darlene Compton and Steven Myers rose on points of privilege last week to say they were threatened with legal action over an issue raised in the legislature.

As he read his decision, Watts said the authors of comments made on social media that were tabled in the legislature were of the view that statements made about them were untrue and defamatory.

“Members of the public have their own right of freedom of speech that allows them to disagree on the factual basis of statements made in parliamentary proceedings,” he said.

Last week, Compton raised questions in the legislature about the Green party and allegations it used personal information that was given to the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation.

Green party leader Peter Bevan-Baker denied the allegations.

Several people who were involved with the party and the coalition also denied the allegations and made comments the MLAs said were threats of legal action.

Watts said if Compton received any communication threatening legal action other than what was tabled in the legislature it wasn’t brought to his attention.

With the evidence provided, Watts said he didn’t see any evidence of direct threats to influence the actions of either of the Opposition MLAs and he couldn’t find that there was a breach of privilege.

“I will assure you honourable members that if an attempt is made to file a lawsuit against any member based on the conduct of the member during an official proceeding of this house or a duly constituted committee of this house, as speaker I will defend the privileges of all member,” he said.

Watts also told MLAs the protection they have in the legislature comes with an important responsibility because statements they make in the house can have terrible consequences and innocent people can have their reputations destroyed.

ryan.ross@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/ryanrross

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