The complainant, Jenni Byrne of Bayfield Strategy, Inc., wrote on behalf of her client, Fortress Developments. She stated that one of the reporters involved in ongoing coverage of Fortress was biased and sensationalistic in her reporting. She complained that there was no follow-up on a story regarding class-action suits against Fortress. The complaint against the reporter and her work is unfounded. The station erred in neglecting to follow up on the legal developments.
You are the Vice President, Strategic Communications, for Bayfield Strategy, Inc. In that capacity, you made a complaint on behalf of your client, Fortress Real Developments Inc. Your client believes that CBC Manitoba and one of its reporters, Joanne Levasseur, are publishing “one-sided, sensationalist and irresponsible” coverage of your company “in the context of a local real estate development project.”
You cited one example of what you believe to be overly aggressive and “gratuitous harassment.” You noted that spokespeople from the company have been in contact with the reporter. In spite of that, Ms. Levasseur contacted the wife of one of the company’s principals, Jawad Rathore, on Facebook:
The only purposes our client can conceive for this breach of basic decency were to either: (i) extract an unguarded statement from Mr. Rathore’s wife about the company’s business – information that would have been learned primarily as a result of the marital relationship; or (ii) to harass or otherwise place additional pressure on Mr. Rathore to cooperate with Ms. Levasseur’s inquiries.
You believed the reporting relied on a source, David Franklin, who has filed civil claims against your client and is a public and vocal critic:
Mr. Franklin has been engaged in a wide ranging and defamatory campaign to destroy Fortress’ business after attempting to enter into a business relationship with Fortress that was rebuffed by Fortress. On August 18, 2017 the Ontario Superior Court issued an interim injunction against Mr. Franklin as a result of false and 2/4 defamatory statements he has made, including that the Law Society of Upper Canada had determined that mortgages on Fortress projects were fraudulent. The Law Society of Upper Canada confirmed they never made such a statement or determination. Franklin’s statements were untrue.
You also took issue with the reporting of some class-action lawsuits filed against Fortress. You said the stories quoted heavily from the statements of claim. There was no follow-up reporting after an August 2017 decision in the Ontario Superior Court “struck out the Statements of Claim in four proposed class actions against Fortress and other defendants.”
You cited various stories over a two-year period which you believe indicated the reporters “sought to sensationalize numerous aspects of the real estate development process including routine delays due to availability of personnel, permitting and financial arrangements.”
You asked why there was no follow-up to a story entitled: “SkyCity developer’s attempt to save a troubled condo project in Barrie fails,” when the company submitted a successful bid two months later – nor has there been any reporting on the success of the development, you said.
You disputed the value of the reporting in this story: Downtown condo tower developer stands to lose $75K after construction permit expires:
The story then went on to note that the value of the project itself was $200 million. Our client continues to struggle to find the relevance of the purported loss of $75,000 in context of a $200 million project, particularly since the rest of the article notes that over half of the units in the development were sold, and that design and engineering activities continued in earnest.