'This is an attempt at intimidation': Brampton council proposal to hold media accountable compared to Trump

Brampton city council will soon vote on a controversial motion aimed at holding local media accountable.

Coun. Gael Miles put forward motion to publish reporters' questions, council's answers

Brampton city council will vote June 14 whether to publish all questions from media on its website. (Statistics Canada)

Brampton city council will soon vote on a controversial motion aimed at holding local media accountable.

Coun. Gael Miles wants all questions from the media and their corresponding answers from council to be posted on the city's website.

"We aren't getting honest reporting, that's what this is about," said Miles.

Coun. Gael Miles feels 'nearly every story' is biased and says the public 'deserves to know the truth.' (Provided)

Miles's proposal states that "copies of all media inquiries received by the mayor, members of council and staff be posted to the city's website, along with the responses provided."

It also calls for time to be set aside at committee and council meetings to give councillors a chance to "speak publicly on recent media stories, which relate to council decisions or issues that may impact the city of Brampton."

Recent stories in one of the city's only print newspapers, the Brampton Guardian, prompted Miles's motion.

This is about a group of councillors lashing out because they are upset with what strong local reporting has unearthed.- The Brampton Guardian

The newspaper has published several investigative stories over the last few years, most recently questioning Miles's leadership around advocating for better transit, and her push to purchase a shuttered golf clubhouse — one the Guardian wrote is owned by a developer who has significantly contributed to Miles's political campaigns and a charity she runs.

"It's a complete spin on fact," Miles said, calling the articles a "chain of stories that are absolutely intended to hurt my reputation.

"They are just not factually correct."

Newspaper stands behind reporting

In a strongly-worded editorial, Guardian staff wrote the proposed motion is "all in reaction to assertive reporting that is critical of the city's leadership."

It goes on to say, "this is about a group of councillors lashing out because they are upset with what strong local reporting has unearthed. Strong, independent reporting on behalf of the public has led to truthful and unflattering accounts of what has been transpiring at city hall."

The Guardian's editor-in-chief says the newspaper has not received a single complaint about these stories.

"She's one of many councillors who have been the subject of a number of articles," Patricia Lonergan said.

"Each of those articles, we do stand behind them," she said, adding the reports are the product of many interviews and freedom of information requests.

"All of these comments — 'it's biased, it's not factual…' — no one has reached out to have a single conversation with us about what is precisely wrong with these articles," Lonergan said.

'A page out of Donald Trump's book'

The proposed motion has at least one journalism professor drawing comparisons to the Donald Trump administration south of the border.

"It sounds like these councillors are trying to take a page out of Donald Trump's book and turn the media into the enemy," said April Lindgren, an associate professor at Ryerson University's School of Journalism.

"This is an attempt at intimidation. I'm not sure if it's particularly successful or sophisticated, but that's what going on here."

Journalism professor April Lindfren says Brampton is under-served by media compared to other cities and 'if there was more media asking more questions, I think these councillors would be even more uncomfortable with being held accountable.' (Credit: Gary Gould)

Trump has repeatedly called out large media organizations, including the New York Times, NBC News and CNN, as "fake news" and "the enemy." 

When asked how she feels about her motion drawing comparisons to the Trump admistration, Miles said, "That's a spin. I'm not sure how it compares to Donald Trump."

"It's simple. Here's the questions, here's the answers. How in any way can that be equated to taking away from the freedom of the press?"

Vote slated for June 14

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey said some of the language Miles has been using in council to campaign for her motion could be interpreted as threatening.

"She feels very strongly about it."

The mayor says, while she doesn't share her colleague's position, she won't be present at the upcoming vote June 14.

"I think the freedom of the press to determine or evaluate the facts and come back with a story or a position is part of democracy," Jeffrey said.

"As one of my newer colleagues said, you need to suck it up and move on to the next issue and not take it personally. It's part of our career."

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey says she's been the subject of stories she didn't always agree with but 'that’s just the price you pay for being in public life.' (Shannon Martin/CBC)


Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.