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I chatted last night with Roland Tanner and Joel MacLeod about the responses to Sarah Jama’s pro-Palestinian statement and my recent column opposing the Ontario Conservative government’s motion to revoke Jama’s speaking rights in the Legislative Assembly.

The 905er Podcast is producing interesting discussing on provincial and municipal issues. I listen to each show.

The following are my mental notes from the 25-minute discussion.

On Why I Wrote the Column

This answer is straightforward: I believe in freedom of expression.

It is one thing for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party to criticize Jama; it is wholly inappropriate for the Conservative government to use the power of the state to silence Jama.

The Party can play politics. The state cannot.

On Hypocrisy and Free Expression

I noted the Ontario Conservatives campaigned as the party of free speech. They quickly required every publicly funded college and university to implement a free speech policy.

Again, free expression is not using the powers of the state to silence speech.

On Jama Threatening to Sue Doug Ford

Jama is threatening to sue Ontario Premier Doug Ford for tarnishing her reputation by accusing her of a “long and well documented history of antisemitism.”

My recollection is I discussed this in two parts:

1) Politics and pushing back against the Premier’s characterizations; and

2) It will be interesting to see how a Superior Court justice would weigh the issues in light of Ontario’s strong protections for speech in Section 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act.

I state her decision is good politics because she is pushing back against the Premier and taking control of the message.

On the merits of the potential defamation suit, I said there is a good analysis to be written regarding how a Superior Court judge could interpret the suit in the context of Ontario’s strongest in North American Anti-SLAPP laws.

How would a judge view the power dynamic between two elected members of the Legislative Assembly?

Is there an overriding public interest in allowing Premier Ford’s speech against MPP Sarah Jama – such that the case should not proceed to trial?

On Media Coverage and Lack of Legacy Media Columns Discussing Free Expression

We discussed why the Jama controversy dominates provincial news, and how it has changed the channel from the ongoing Greenbelt scandal.

It is the ‘new’ in news. The Greenbelt scandal will again dominate the news.

I cited Colin D’Mello, “Whenever the government is asked about the Greenbelt scandal and allegations of corruption, they respond with an attack about Sarah Jama’s comments about Israel.”

The Official Opposition’s role is to be a government in waiting. The decision of NDP leader to direct Jama to remove the statement post, and Jama’s not doing so, is a leadership story.

Stiles chose to demand the post be removed. As the NDP leader, she created that part of the story.

On why there are no opinion columns similar to my own.

There are not many columnists left at legacy outlets.

The op-ed pages of the pre-Internet era are now online. People post their thoughts onto X, Substack, and other platforms.

What we lack is good curation to find those opinions. [The curation problem is a good topic for a column]

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Published: October 21, 2023
Last edited: October 21, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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