In one of the more direct lines from media into politics that this country has seen, James Wallace, vice president of editorial for the Sun papers, announced this morning that he will be leaving Postmedia to take a job in the office of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Reports indicate that he will become one of Ford’s deputy chiefs of staff.
“I have accepted a role in Premier Doug Ford’s office, where I hope to be of some help and service but want to thank each of you for the love, sweat, and tears you’ve put into what [Toronto Sun city editor Jonathan] Kingstone aptly refers to as the Daily Miracle,” he wrote in a memo conveyed to his former staff (published in full at bottom).
Wallace has had a variety of roles in and around the Toronto Sun since 1989, including a run as its editor-in-chief from 2010-13. He also had a stint in the Progressive Conservative government of Ernie Eves, running communications for Public Safety and Security Minister Bob Runciman, after which he became Queen’s Park bureau chief for the Osprey chain of papers that have since come under the Postmedia umbrella.
Since 2015, Wallace has served as a sort of super-editor for the Sun newspapers, overseeing its editions in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton.
It was in this role that he entered the news last April, when CANADALAND obtained a memo outlining what appeared to be plans to weaponize the Toronto Sun to carry out an anti-Liberal campaign during the spring election. Portions of the memo echoed, or would later be echoed by, passages from Wallace’s columns in particular.
The Sun‘s union representatives raised the memo in a meeting with Wallace, expressing the concerns of reporters who had not previously seen the document and believed it called their integrity into question.
“We wanted him to clarify — both to us and publicly — that the impression left by the memo, which is that the reporters are enlisted in implementing the editorial stance, is wrong and needs to be repudiated. And he wasn’t willing to do that,” Howard Law, director of Unifor’s media sector and the rep servicing the Sun‘s bargaining unit, said at the time.
“He made some reference, ‘Look, every newspaper has its outlook, and you can try to tell me the Toronto Star doesn’t have one,'” Law said.
When election polls began to suggest that the Ontario NDP, rather than the Liberals, posed the greatest threat to the PCs’ lead, the Toronto and Ottawa Suns published a succession of front pages attacking the NDP and its candidates instead.
— Adrienne Batra (@AdrienneBatra) January 25, 2019
The Toronto Sun will continue under the leadership of editor-in-chief Adrienne Batra, who was hired as an editor at the paper straight from her role as Mayor Rob Ford’s press secretary in 2011.
At the conclusion of an onstage “fireside chat” with Doug Ford at the Ontario PC convention in November, Batra blessed the premier with good fortune.
“We wish you all the best — all the best for your party, for more successful future campaign[s] that you have moving forward,” she said. “Because a lot of Ontarians [are] relying on you to unwind a big mess, Mr. Premier. And let me be the first to say: I wish you all the best.”
Note sent by James Wallace to his former colleagues Thursday morning:
The first time I walked through the doors of the Toronto Sun, way… way… back in 1989, I thought I was the luckiest kid from my journalism class. Turns out I was right. It’s been my greatest privilege and honour to have been part of the Sun family (my most recent incarnation my third kick at the can) and I’m immensely proud of the work we’ve done together through often difficult, extraordinary but fascinating times.
I have accepted a role in Premier Doug Ford’s office where I hope to be of some help and service but want to thank each of you for the love, sweat, and tears you’ve put into what Mr. Kingstone aptly refers to as the Daily Miracle. I’m immensely appreciative of the help I’ve received from so many and remain in awe of the work ethic and talent in sports, news, our overburdened desk and national team.
I’m certain under Adrienne and Kevin the Sun’s voice will only get stronger.
Good luck and best wishes.