July 3rd, 2014
Toronto city council is being asked to prevent Mayor Rob Ford or any other elected official from barring some media outlets from city hall news conferences.
A motion from Councillor Paula Fletcher urges her colleagues to take a stand at next week’s council meeting against adopting exclusionary tactics while using taxpayer-funded facilities.
The city supplies both the venue and support staff, Fletcher said Thursday.
“This has got to do with the fact that this is public property,” she said. “City facilities and city staff should not be used to aid and abet somebody who says not everybody is welcome.”
“If you wish to go to your own property, you can invite whoever you like.”
In addressing media on his return to his office after rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, Ford excluded Now Magazine and Metroland community newspapers. The Canadian Press had been on the exclusion list but that was reversed and the news agency attended the event.
The mayor spent the first part of his remarks on his experiences in rehabilitation over the past two months. The second part was a campaign-style speech. He left without responding to questions from invited media.
“It’s fundamentally wrong to exclude accredited city hall press gallery members,” said Councillor Josh Matlow.
In addition, Matlow argued the rules say Ford should not be using city resources to deliver a campaign message.
“He could hold a news conference about a new gridlock strategy, a transit plan, water main replacement, that’s completely fair,” he said. “But it should be argued that a campaign speech should not be made at city hall.”
It’s in the city’s interest that the flow of information not be restricted by excluding media, said Councillor James Pasternak.
“Our greatest challenge in municipal government is to engage a wider audience in what we are doing – not shrink it,” said Pasternak.
“It is vital that as many media platforms as possible across all ideological spectrums be given the opportunity to relay and report news to their reading, listening or viewing publics,” he said.
City officials are withholding comment until council makes a decision at next week’s meeting.
Ford did not respond to the Star’s request for comment.
Fletcher’s motion was welcomed by Toronto city hall press gallery president David Nickle, who as a columnist/reporter at Metroland was himself barred from Ford’s event.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Nickle said. “I think whenever a public official makes comment to the press publicly, that is a matter of public interest.
“It would make things a lot more comfortable if we could get away from this business of exclusions.”
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