Prime Minister Stephen Harper is suing the Liberals for libel — the first time a Canadian leader in office has taken legal action against his political opposition.
Named as defendants in the suit seeking $2.5-million in damages, plus legal costs, are the Liberal Party of Canada, Federal Liberal Agency of Canada and the unnamed person who wrote the statements in question.
The comments, published on the Liberal Web site, carried the headlines: "Harper knew of Conservative bribery" and "Harper must come clean about allegations of Conservative bribery."
They question Harper's alleged involvement in financial "offers" made to Chuck Cadman — an Independent member of Parliament from British Columbia — just before his death from cancer in order to sway his vote in 2005.
Dona Cadman said her late husband was offered a $1-million life insurance policy before the Commons' vote that could have defeated the Liberal minority government. She also said Harper convinced her later that he knew nothing of the alleged offer.
"I have every right, as does my family, to defend our reputation," Harper said. "The Liberal Party will, as I said, come to regret engaging in this illegal and untruthful behavior," he added.
"We will not apologize. Come on — we want the truth from the prime minister," said Liberal leader Stephane Dion.
Snow leads to three deaths in Quebec
Record snowfall in eastern Canada has resulted in overloaded roofs that killed three women in Quebec and closed schools in the province.
Marilyn Ofiaza, 46, Barbara Elliot, 54, and Sharon Kirkpatrick, 62, were killed when the roof of Gourmet du Village, a specialty food company where they worked in Morin-Heights, caved in from a heavy snow load.
The incident prompted civic officials across the province, including Montreal, to close schools while workers removed excess snow from their roofs.
News in brief
• Members of the Canadian Peace Alliance held protests in 20 cities across Canada to oppose the decision to extend the military mission in Afghanistan to 2011. The government voted 198-77 to keep Canada's fight in Afghanistan going beyond next year's pull-out date as long as NATO provides a minimum of 1,000 reinforcements.
• New rules for killing seals "more humanely" will be in place for this year's hunt off Newfoundland's north coast and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The quota has been increased to 275,000 seals from 270,000 taken last year. It is an "economic mainstay" for numerous rural communities, Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said.
• Recent deaths include Simon Reisman and Jeff Healey. Reisman, Canada's negotiator in the free-trade talks with the United States in 1986, was 88. He died in Ottawa of complications from heart surgery. Healey, a jazz and blues rock legend, was 41 and died of cancer in Toronto. Blind since an infant because of the disease, he died just before the release of Mess of Blues, his first album in eight years.
Facts and figures
Canada's dollar continues its advance, rising to $1.0137 cents U.S. Friday, while the U.S. greenback returned 98.65 cents Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 4 percent while the prime lending rate is 5.75 percent.
Canadian stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto Exchange index higher at 13,325 points and the TSX Venture Exchange down at 2,665 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 11, 22, 29, 41,44; bonus 48. (March 8) 11, 12, 13, 16, 46, 48; bonus 28. Super 7: (March 7) 1, 7, 9, 10, 11, 27, 44; bonus 25.
• A burning issue in British Columbia is the enactment of a carbon tax that Finance Minister Carole Taylor said could serve as a model for Canada to fight climate change. The tax will be applied to most fossil fuels, starting July 1 at 2.4 cents on a liter of gasoline (9.12 cents for a U.S. gallon) and 2.8 cents for a liter of home heating fuel. It rises to about 7.2 cents for a liter of gas by 2012.
• The Nova Scotia government has signed a one-year deal with a private health care provider to perform 500 publicly insured orthopedic surgeries. The "demonstration project" will use operating room facilities in Dartmouth owned by Scotia Surgery Inc. to free up space for more complex cases at Halifax-area hospitals.
• The provincial government has extended the contract of Julian Fantino, 65, as head of the Ontario Provincial Police for one year despite opposition concerns the outspoken commissioner is too political. Fantino, who earns $250,000 a year and often pulls over speeders himself, is a former Toronto police chief. When asked if he favored a return of the death penalty, Fantino said he would "buy the first six feet of rope."
Jim Fox can be reached at