Taylor recants ‘coke parties’ claim

A lawsuit has been dropped against Donald Taylor, Watson Lake's freewheeling critic of the Yukon Party.

A lawsuit has been dropped against Donald Taylor, Watson Lake’s freewheeling critic of the Yukon Party.

Pat Irvin, a Watson Lake businessman and ally of Premier Dennis Fentie, hit Taylor with the defamation lawsuit last month, prompted by an e-mail in which Taylor refers to “well known weekend coke parties for the elite at Pat Irvin’s residence,” according to the statement of claim.

The January e-mail was sent to 22 recipients, including MP Larry Bagnell, Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell, the NDP caucus and both the News and the Whitehorse Star.

According to the statement of claim, Taylor’s accusations are untrue and have tarnished Irvin’s reputation, exposing him to “public scandal and embarrassment.”

This damage has been compounded by the criminal nature of the allegations and Taylor’s refusal to provide an “effective apology” for the harm done, the claim states.

On Tuesday, Irvin received his apology, in the form of a groveling retraction that Taylor sent, at Irvin’s request, to the original e-mail’s recipients.

“I unreservedly retract and withdraw the statements in respect to Mr. Irvin made therein, and as they were based on rumour and hearsay I cannot say the information is true,” the letter states.

“Once again I apologize to Mr. Irvin and express my deepest regrets for any inconvenience and embarrassment which I may have caused him and his reputation.”

Taylor isn’t able to discuss the terms of the settlement because of a confidentiality clause in the agreement, he said.

Taylor, 76, had planned to defend himself in court. He has little savings, depends on a government pension and lives in a cabin without a phone, making him ill-equipped to fight a prolonged legal battle against a well-connected businessman such as Irvin, who owns Watson Lake’s grocery store.

But the lawsuit hasn’t discouraged him from continuing to play his self-appointed role as a “citizen’s advocate” by way of controversial posts to his website. He’s still blogging, and the top of his website continues to blame three MLAs with ties to Watson Lake – Dennis Fentie, Elaine Taylor and Archie Lang – for propping up business monopolies in the Alaska Highway town.

Taylor served as Watson Lake’s political representative for more than three decades, first on the territorial council in the 1960s and later as a member of the legislative assembly in the 1970s and 1980s. He first sat as a Progressive Conservative and later as an independent. He served as House Speaker from 1974 until 1985, when he retired from politics.

Irvin has worked as a political organizer for the party and is a business partner of Lang. Until recently, they owned three Watson Lake Hotels. He was recently appointed to Yukon Energy’s board by Fentie.

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