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Jama jolted out
Plus: how Team Ford is responding to the FOI dump, poll watch, a mini Liberal makeover for round four, Singh's cell, a new face on the block, at committee, reno lag, the ghost Speaker and more
Disgruntled grassroots are calling foul over alleged perpetuation of stereotypical Black tropes and dismissing of racialized, dissident voices while the rookie is being outed for breaking colleagues' trust and causing a security stir.
That's the upshot of the drama (II) on Team Stiles — facing a grassroots recoil and a split caucus over a decision to boot Sarah Jama for insubordination.
To sum: It all started with a tweet from Jama calling for an "end to all occupation of Palestinian land" and an end to "apartheid," failing to condemn Hamas' attack in a statement that cued terse pushback: "antisemitic," "a love letter," "pro terrorist," "reprehensible, abhorrent, evil." Stiles stayed mum as the counterpunching grew before issuing an ultimatum to Jama a day later: retract the statement and denounce violence against both sides. Jama apologized but kept the original post up.
The Tories introduced a motion condemning "the ongoing and reprehensible attacks" by Hamas, another censuring Jama until her tweet is taken down, all while she threatened Premier Doug Ford with a defamation suit after her accused her of supporting "the rape and murder of innocent Jewish people."
Jama stood in the chamber to begin her counter, emphasizing that her words were grounded "in the reality of the Israeli apartheid and Israel's ongoing domination and occupation of Palestinian lands." By the time the debate wrapped up, she was dumped from caucus for not toeing the party line and abiding by the regs, undermining caucus' "collective work" and trust.
Party brass pounced. A handful of riding associations called for Stiles' head or an early leadership review, a local riding president quit and former — and current — caucus members weighed in on the drama.
"One can't work together as a team, or on the principle of trust, if decrying the scale and asymmetry of injustice is framed as a 'different viewpoint,'" wrote a riding president who quit over the ordeal.
Stiles defended the call. "We were put in an untenable situation with multiple surprises," the captain said. "We had to do what we had to do." Stiles accepted the pushback in an email to constituents in Davenport we scooped — calling the decision to boot Jama "very difficult" but emphasizing that her removal was unrelated to "her advocacy for Palestinian human rights or her call for a ceasefire." "Our work is always based on the foundational principles of trust and working together as a team."
Behind the scenes, insiders insist the same: it wasn't Jama's stance that got her kicked but that she wouldn't play by the rules. Jama breached a deal that was struck with Stiles with "repeated situations" where she went rogue despite the provision of resources to support her and a commitment to collaborate.
The move was driven by three main factors:
— Jama pinned the original statement on X — which caught Stiles' office off guard despite the initial mea culpa and threw cold water on any attempt to brush the controversy aside with the House set to debate a motion to censure.
That was used against her in debate: "They pinned the statement on Twitter — or X, I guess it's called now — so that every time you go to her page, every time you take a look at what she is saying, that is what you see," said PC MPP Dave Smith. Read the transcript.
— Jama had privately mused about pursuing legal action against Ford, according to a senior party source. Rather than working with the party on securing legal representation and taking action, Jama went her own route by choosing a lawyer who the party had concerns about.
Adding to the drama: As Jama returned to the chamber, she, along with the protesters, made an effort to physically serve Ford was a cease and desist letter, leading to the intervention of legislative security. "Undergoing a bit of a stunt without letting your caucus colleagues or even staff know that you're doing it put people in harm's way," the source said. "It could have gone very badly."
"When we know things about advance, it's easier for us to put safety plans for caucus and staff," they explained. "By surprise, they could spiral out of control and not be a good thing for members of our own caucus or the safety of others."
— The party worked with Jama to prepare a speech on the censure vote that "would be in line with what she wanted to say and wouldn't cause harm." Instead, Jama read a different script — with the words "apartheid" and "occupation."
"Obviously, members are free to talk about what they want to talk about. We're not here to script anybody or make them adhere to a certain message," the source said. "Part of our other job is to minimize the harm that could be done to community members."
Complicating matters for Marit: at least one NDP MPP threatened to quit caucus over Jama's comments, we've confirmed. Eight members — Rakocevic, Shaw, Tabuns, Armstrong, Gates, Gretzky, Glover and Fife — skipped the vote to censure altogether, though there were unrelated absences that day.
Still, the decision has split caucus — with one speaking out, the other expressing "disappointment" in Jama. Stiles worked the phone line before making the decision but the call was ultimately her responsibility.
One caucus member accused the party of conjuring "stereotypical tropes often used to communicate about Black people, especially Black women, who are perceived as difficult" while another's office blamed the media for choosing "an easier narrative," emphasizing that the timing of the ouster was the problem.
In an email to a constituent we've obtained, a staffer in Kristyn Wong Tam's office said Jama was "removed from caucus because of irreparably and repeatedly broken trust — not her views on Palestine." KWT tried reaching out to Jama to "offer mentorship and prevent this outcome," per the staffer, acknowledging that the party's official line has been "too little to live up to the standard of transparency" for members. "
"The leader's hand was forced," argued the staffer — telling the resident that Jama rejected meetings and calls from Stiles to repair trust with caucus. Still, "we want to repair those relationships [with disgruntled supporters] and work with them to improve processes and make sure they know that there is a place for them in the party," the source said.
But don't expect Jama to jolt back into the party's fold. "This is a question of free speech. I think I have the democratic right to say what I need to say," Jama said during a protest in downtown Toronto. While the general consensus is that Jama likely won't want back into the tent after the ordeal, Stiles says she doesn't see any viable path for the rookie to return.
Poll watch: the Greenbelt mea culpa et al.
SCOOP — A fresh poll by Campaign Research is putting Premier Ford's Greenbelt mea culpa under the microscope — while taking the public's pulse on their "biggest concern," the federal carbon charge and the performance of federal and provincial leaders.
Though it's unclear whether the poll was drafted on the Tories' behest, the latest questionnaire by Tory operative Nick Kouvalis' polling company is scouting opinion on hot button issues and support for Ford's political adversaries.
Here are the four key lines of inquiry:
Initially, did you support or oppose the government of Ontario changing the boundaries of the Greenbelt in the Greater Toronto Area so that more homes could be built?
Based on what you know now, do you agree or disagree with Premier Ford reversing the decision to take out land from the Greenbelt and now returning all parcels back into the Greenbelt?
Premier Ford has accepted responsibility for the mistakes made and has apologized for taking the lands out of the Greenbelt initially. Are you aware of the apology?
Do you believe his apology to be sincere?
FOI dump: "a wake up call"
An avalanche of FOIs on the Ford government's reversed, controversial municipal urban boundary changes is out as the Tories gear up for a criminal probe into the carve up of Greenbelt acreage.
Here are the highlights — and how Team Ford is responding to the brouhaha:
— The trove of internal government documents released by Environmental Defence showed that it was political staff who directed bureaucrats on municipal boundary changes: "a chaotic, developer led process that did an end run around the normal planning approval process."
— One internal email suggested that Premier Doug Ford had a face to face with Hamilton developer Sergio Manchia on pursuing "[a] request" of removing his land from the Greenbelt "in keeping with the province's objectives of aiding municipalities in providing much needed housing." That would undermine what Ford told the integrity commissioner on a conclave with the developer.
— "Everybody keep your mouth shut" is what Ryan Amato — chief to former Housing Minister Steve Clark — instructed staff as a story broke on developers standing to gain from the carve up. "Eyes wide open," wrote a staffer.
— As Team Clark pondered with how to deal with stakeholders pinging for information about the incoming changes, with a "recommended approach" of sharing intel to allow for analysis, Amato's verdict was "not going to hand somebody the gun to shoot me with so no."
Though the boundary changes were shot down due to extreme involvement by political staff, it's another twist in an explosive episode for the Tories — and it's taking a toll. "This is a wake up call," said one source. "Cabinet ministers are stressed, staffers are pissed and rightfully so. It's a reminder that we won't be in government forever."
Fess up: With the government looking to stay a step ahead of more damage, senior personnel huddled at St. Paul's Bloor Street for a training day on ethics organized by Ford's office — and the memo is cascading downstream to all: "They told us 'if you've ever taken anything from a stakeholder, come clean. You won't get in trouble. It's not going to hurt you,'" the source spilled.
Auditor General Nick Stavropoulos will audit the Ford government's plan to revamp Ontario Place — but a government source told Global the Tories aren't sweating the probe: "I think it will show moving Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place was the right call."
"We look forward to engaging with the Auditor General and we're confident he will find that Therme's participation in the revitalization of Ontario Place brings excellent value," said a company spokesperson.
Premier Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow want Ottawa to join a "working group" on the city's finances given the feds' "significant" cash room. The two sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau making the call. "[Toronto's] challenges require the collaboration of all orders of government to deliver solutions that will protect services, avoid new taxes and place the city on a path toward long term financial stability."
An internal email obtained by The Trillium showed that Ron Taverner — a superintendent with Toronto Police and Ford ami — "advised his colleagues against accepting the OPP's request to assign city police" to Ford daughter's stag. "We are reluctant to sent (sic) on duty resources to this event unless Police are called for a specific reason," he wrote.
The strike at TVO is over. Staff at the province's public broadcaster are back at work after OKing a new collective agreement with a wage boost and some retroactive pay — though the head of the public broadcaster's union says it doesn't go far enough. "Although we didn't get the wage gains we were hoping for, I'm incredibly proud of all we accomplished," wrote producer and union president Meredith Martin.
Two of the province's teachers' unions could walk off the job after voting in favour of a strike with the union representing Ontario's high school teachers entering binding arbitration. More from the Star.
AT THE PALACE
— The House is on a short hiatus for constit week and it's a slow week on the committee circuit.
At Heritage: The committee was up in Barrie on Monday for public hearings as it studies the regional governance model in Durham, Halton, Niagara, Simcoe, Waterloo and York.
At Justice Policy: It's a busy week for the committee with a daily marathon of clause à clause examination of Red Tape Reduction Minister Parm Gill's Less Red Tape, More Common Sense Act.
— SCOOP — The four provincial Liberal leadership candidates will go for round four in Ottawa tomorrow — and we've learned that the debate format is getting a minor makeover in the aftermath of a snoozy showdown in Toronto.
"I could barely take watching it," texted a Liberal source after the clash at the Isabel Bader. "Not as bad as the [federal] Tory debate with the bell but close." "Boring. I said this would happen," said a second. "The party is terrible at this."
Emerging from the theatre, staff and candidates alike mingled and mused about the format — with the consensus that the party's leadership brawls were falling short. "We haven't had much of a debate tonight in the sense of going back and forth," jabbed Nate Erskine-Smith before throwing shade at Bonnie Crombie over her housing record.
What's changing: There had been ongoing conversations about "small tweaks" to the debate's format — and the party is "evolving with feedback" from each campaign, according to multiple sources. It won't be substantial but expect to see a "conversational style" debate with a segment less to allow for rapid, "humanizing, personality" questions, though there won't be any extra open debate time, per se.
The debate will go down at 7pm from Algonquin College. Watch it live.
ICYMI: Join us at the Isabel Bader Theatre on Monday at 7pm as Bonnie, Nate, Ted and Yasir sit down for a conversation on rebuilding the party and governing the province. It won't be a confrontational, elbows up debate — but expect a lively ninety minute chat about who they are, why they're running and what they stand for.
Plus: hear from OSSTF president Karen Littlewood and OECTA president Rene' Jansen in de Wal about the stakes of the contest on public education in the province.
A livestream will be available on X for those unable to attend in person.
— Jagmeet's cell: Housing Minister Paul Calandra told NDP captain Marit Stiles to call her federal cousin about axing the carbon tax. Global's Colin D'Mello gave the number a dial and uhhhh.
— The facelift of the Macdonald Block complex a block away from Queen's Park "will not be completed on schedule next spring or on budget" — with Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma telling the Star that the project has hit a road bump with "significant" challenges ahead.
— "If you want me to be your personal driver, I will be:" Steve Paikin on how Premier Ford bid adieu to outgoing Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell — who he likened to his "personal therapist" — at a farewell dinner at the Royal Ontario Museum.
— A new face on the block: A statue of Queen Elizabeth II has been unveiled next to the visitors' entrance in recognition of her "lifetime of personal service." The statue was designed by sculptor Ruth Abernethy. Money misspent? Read up.
— Voters in Kitchener Centre will head to the polls on November 30. Who's who on the ballot.
— Pages needed: Applications to become a Legislative Page during the spring term close next Wednesday. (Side note: this journalist was a page during his tween years and would suggest all young political junkies give it a shot).
HALLOWEEN AT THE PARK
For Halloween, we enlisted Speaker Ted Arnott to share a haunted Pink Palace anecdote — and while he says he hasn't personally encountered anything spooky or ghostly during his time in the building, "legend says that a former Speaker still roams the hallways, calling things to order."
Meanwhile, here's some of the top Halloween duds and jabs:
Interim Grit captain John Fraser will headline a reception in Ottawa to celebrate a decade since his first electoral win. "Hey how are ya?" will go down at the St. Elias Banquet Centre. Get a ticket.
The four Liberal leadership candidates will be in Hamilton on Thursday for a "fundraising dinner" at the Michelangelo Banquet Centre. RSVP.
Veteran Liberal strategist David Herle is headlining a mixer at Borgo Antico tonight for the party's Oakville riding association. More.
WHAT WE'RE READING
THE STAR: "Doug Ford fires PC veteran from Metrolinx board after she criticizes him" by Robert Benzie
"Doug Ford government open to taking over Gardiner, DVP to help fix Toronto's finances, sources say" by Ben Spurr and David Rider
CBC NEWS: "Ontario's projected deficit quadruples to $5.6B as interest rates, inflation pressure economy" by Lucas Powers
"Hamilton's new living wage tops $20 per hour" by Justin Chandler
GLOBAL NEWS: "Ford government forced to fix rushed zoning order that put tower on flight path" by Isaac Callan and Colin D'Mello
NATIONAL POST: "An enfeebled Trudeau has the NDP seriously reconsidering its support" by John Ivison
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