When I think about strong women, I think of women who have stayed true to their profession, who lead with integrity. As publisher of Women’s Post, it would be easy to simply trash men, to talk about women’s rights and the need for women to have more power. But it would be wrong.

Ethics are tools that help people stay true to the balance our society relies on to move forward. When that balance is shifted so that women or men gain too much power, our society as a whole suffers. I am proud that Women’s Post not only promotes the successes of women, but defends men from the attacks of women using their power unjustly.

In journalism, there are far too many writers who give way to sensationalism, who twist their words for political gain and twitter followers. This was obvious today, as I read Jennifer Pagliaro’s fiction in the Toronto Star where she writes “Tory proclaimed his transit priorities were SmartTrack and the Scarborough subway. He said SmartTrack would provide relief on the Yonge line while knocking Olivia Chow’s support of the relief line subway.”  This is so blatantly false that the writer in me screams foul.

I’m hoping that Pagliaro just hasn’t done her homework, because I hate to think that she might be attempting to use her platform as a journalist to twist the truth.

When John Tory was running for Mayor of Toronto, he came out in strong support of what he coined the “Yonge Relief” subway line.  I remember thinking how clever it was that he had changed the name from the downtown relief line to the Yonge relief line. By calling it a relief line for Yonge Street he was explaining to the public the actual function of the line – to offer riders from Scarborough and Etobicoke an alternative way of getting across the city.

That’s why I cringe today as I read Pagliaro’s words in the Toronto Star because it assumes that just because Tory suggested Smart Track that he was against the relief line, which is simply not true at all. If she were to do her homework she could have discovered that he has promoted the relief line for years. Pagliaro even suggests that Olivia Chow’s support of the relief line was authentic. As a transit advocate, I remember well that we could not get Chow to come out in support of the downtown relief subway line, because her loyalty was to Transit City and LRTs. Tory was constantly knocking her support of the relief line. When Chow came out claiming her love for the relief line all I could do was laugh and wonder if the journalists would notice/remember, or if naive young woman might fall for it —  indeed Pagliaro did.

When I ran for Mayor in 2010, I was very fortunate to have Mayor Tory’s two sons – George Tory and John Tory running my campaign. I’m not sure how big a role their father actually played, but I always had the feeling that he was quietly advising them. We decided to make the relief subway line a pivotal part of our campaign, because most transit experts insisted it was the highest priority line in the city. I remember going into a debate with John Jr. instructing me to answer every question with “the relief line or a subway.”  I balked when he told me he didn’t care if the question was about social housing, or land use planning — that I should answer “relief subway line” to every question or he would quit the campaign. And before I went up on stage he grabbed all my notes and told me I wouldn’t need them.

The next day all the papers were calling me “Subway Sarah” and I jumped to third place in the polls.  I was in absolute awe of the Tory boys and their father.

Back then reporters said our idea for the relief line was wishful thinking.  But over the years, as CEO of the Transit Alliance, my team and I worked to build awareness and support for the relief line, hosting many events in which John Tory would take part. He always spoke in support of the relief line, emphasizing it’s importance. Tory never gave up on the relief line, and that is why I wonder what Pagliaro is trying to do in her column?

International Woman’s Day is about the strength of women to lead within our society. We do this by staying true to ourselves, our profession, and each other. But yet again, I find myself defending a man against the political attacks of a woman who irresponsibly uses her stage to distort the truth.

Becoming a good journalist takes hard work. It isn’t easy to get beyond your personal assumptions and report the facts without bias, and in the world of twitter it is hard to avoid the temptation when given a global stage to write from. But a true journalist doesn’t take advantage of the stage they stand on. She does her homework, uncovers the truth, and writes the facts.

Today, critics are piling on Mayor Tory simply because he is willing to admit that a campaign strategy – Smart Track — may not be feasible. They forget that when he announced Smart Track during the campaign he insisted it was an idea, a vision, and that studies would be needed to see if it could work. They want to ignore the fact that Mayor Tory coined the term the “Yonge Street Relief line” and that he was one of the first to advocate for it.  I want to remind the Mayor of a great quote from Jean Sibelius: “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”


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