Tourism Langley has threatened to sue a local bed-and-breakfast owner for defamation after he harshly criticized the organization online.
Wally Martin received a letter from a local law firm, Campbell Burton McMullan, last week threatening a lawsuit and setting a deadline of Friday, June 7 for Martin to remove certain online postings.
“It has come to the attention of my client that you have engaged in spreading false, destructive, and defamatory rumours about Tourism Langley and its representatives,” reads the letter from lawyer Scott Payne.
In particular, a June 1 Facebook post and a June 3 email by Martin, were singled out. The Facebook post was in reference to his removal from Tourism Langley last year over criticism of the organization.
“These are simply the latest examples of a protracted pattern of publishing, over the course of years, false and misleading statements concerning Tourism Langley,” the letter says, citing other statements by Martin, including letters to the editor.
Martin said he’s not worried about the threat of a lawsuit.
“I’m actually kind of looking forward to standing in front of a judge,” Martin told the Langley Advance Times.
He hopes to use the opportunity to question Tourism Langley about its finances and operations, which he has long criticized.
Martin’s opposition to Tourism Langley goes all the way back to the early days of the organization’s formation in 2006. As a local tourism board was created – replacing the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce’s role in promoting local tourism. It was to be funded by a two-per-cent tax on hotel rooms.
As owner of The Princess and the Pea bed and breakfast, Martin fought the hotel tax and claimed the increase of keeping away American tourists.
More recently, Martin has accused the board of being secretive, and frivilous with its money for buying jackets for the organization’s directors.
“Yes, I am questioning all of their activities,” Martin said.
The executive director of Tourism Langley said that, of course, Martin has freedom of speech, but that some of his accusations aren’t true.
“But nobody’s allowed to make defamatory comments about another business or another person,” Erinn Krebda said.
Tourism Langley’s funding comes largely from the provincially-regulated hotel room tax. As of last October, the province extended the tax to every room being rented for the night, including AirBnb suites, Krebda noted.
Local tourism marketing organizations that receive the money are regulated by the province.
“We are overseen quite closely by Destination BC and the Ministry of Finance,” Krebda said.
As for the jackets, they were bought for the directors of Tourism Langley, who serve as volunteers in their positions, Krebda said, adding that the jackets are to promote Langley and identify the directors at public events.
She noted that although Martin is no longer a member, Tourism Langley’s website still features The Princess and the Pea as a place to stay in Langley and includes a description and contact information.
Krebda said no lawsuit has been launched yet, and the organization is waiting for advice from lawyers.
As of Monday, Martin’s Facebook post was still up.
Last year, Martin was embroiled in another dispute with Tourism Langley, over his ownership of web addresses tourismlangley.com and langleytourism.com. Both sites redirect to his bed and breakfast’s website. Tourism Langley’s website is at tourism-langley.ca.
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