At a meeting of council's government management committee Tuesday morning, City Hall Press Gallery president David Nickle spoke against a proposed change to security rules that would prevent reporters from entering councillors' office area without any restrictions. The following is a transcript of Doug Ford's subsquent exchange with Nickle in which he took issue with a Star story on Mayor Rob Ford's itineraries and with the Star's filing of requests for information under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act:
Ford: You believe in transparency and confidentiality, and you were mentioning that you don’t think it’s right that we should see what councillors you’re speaking to, or where you’re getting your information. I find there’s a double standard here, and hypocrisy at its best, with the media. I’m the first to admit 90% of the media is very respectful, they don’t come charging through the office, but there is a media outlet that doesn’t respect that. That pulls out FOIs from the mayor, from myself, three to four times more FOIs, freedom of information act, has been pulled in the first three months. I had more than 20 phone calls over the last three days from constituents – Little Miss Jones, that we went to go fix her sidewalk, the Toronto Star shows up and starts asking them why we were there! Do you feel that is fair?
Nickle: I think that when the matter is investigating public officials, that is something media outlets do. It’s one of the things I know causes a great deal of discomfort on the second floor [where the mayor’s office and councillors’ offices are located], that we do cast a more vigorous eye on mayors and city councillors than we do on individual members of the public. We do make freedom of information requests. But the thing about that is, we make a freedom of information request, we go through your avenues, the city’s avenues protecting privacy and whatnot – we don’t get all the information we ask for, but we ask. And that’s the media’s fundamental role, is to ask. And there are precedents in the court that speak of the value of protecting sources, in some cases; protecting sources is something the media does hopefully in stories that reflect the public interest.
Ford: But it’s not happening that way, I just wanna tell you. So every constituent that I see, the mayor sees, gets a phone call from the Toronto Star, asked why they were there, what we were there for – as far as I’m concerned, that’s private. That’s none of their business.
Committee chair Paul Ainslie: Councillor Ford, sorry, your time [crosstalk] –
Ford then took issue with Star reporter Robyn Doolittle's attempt to speak with his mother for a profile of him that ran the day after the 2010 election. Doolittle had spent days in Etobicoke for the story when she noticed a Jaguar covered with Ford For Mayor decals and attempted to talk to the driver, whom she found out was Ford's mother.
Ford: [Crosstalk] I’m know, I’m getting’ off topic. Do you think it’s fair – I’ll pose it as a question. Do you think it’s fair the Toronto Star stalks my 76-year-old mother, follows her to a neighbour’s house two streets down, follows her in a car, she knocks on the door, by the time she gets back, she gets a phone call from the neighbour saying the Toronto Star’s at my door asking what we just dropped off – it was a bag of fruit. Do you think that is fair, that’s proper journalism? Or is that stalking?
Nickle: I would have to –
Ford: Or is that crossing the line?
Nickle: I would have to ask my colleagues across the hall at the Toronto Star what this story was before I –
Ford: When you start going after people’s families, it’s a witch hunt. It’s unacceptable.
Ainslie: Sorry, Councillor Ford [crosstalk] –
Ford: I understand, I got off topic, I apologize, that’s the end of my [crosstalk] –
Nickle: If I can just answer that a little bit. I’m not today speaking to our access to members of the public or access to people’s homes or the way that we might deal with the family members of politicians. It’s simply a matter of being able to speak to our elected representatives in an open and confidential and really unfettered way.
Ford: And I just want to say – 98% of you are respectful, you don’t hunt someone’s mother down, except one media outlet: the Toronto Star. They’re ruthless.