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article imageFord campaign confirms actors were hired for Monday debate rally

By Karen Graham     May 8, 2018 in Politics
Doug Ford’s campaign has confirmed that actors were hired to play Progressive Conservative supporters outside the Monday night Ontario leaders’ debate in the June 7 provincial election.
The leaders of Ontario's three major political parties met for the first of three debates ahead of the June 7 vote. Progressive Conservative party leader Doug Ford squared off against Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath in the live debate held at CityNews television studio.
And while the debate was heated at times, with Horwath and Wynne jumping on Ford's claims he would find "billions in savings by cutting government spending" in certain jobs or services, an event that took place before the debate ended up making more news.
Paid actors pretended to be Ford supporters
Besides the angry protests by supporters of ousted PC candidate Tanya Granic Allen, kicked out by Ford because she made comments about certain groups he considered "irresponsible" and inconsistent with party views, there was an even bigger story brewing with a group of pro-Ford supporters.
Meagan Fitzpatrick
According to the Toronto Star, campaign officials for Toronto Centre Tory candidate Meredith Cartwright, a prominent lawyer, apparently hired the actors from casting agency CastmeBG to rally for Ford at Dundas Square outside the CityNews television studio.
It appears that one of the actors alerted the news media. Devanshu Narang, a background performer, and Chair of the ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists), revealed to the Star on Monday that he, along with other actors, had been offered parts as Ford supporters at the rally.
At a news conference on Tuesday morning, when asked about the actors, Ford said, “That’s the first I’ve heard of that."
He added, “We don’t need that. I can assure you I’ll be calling Meredith to ask what’s going on.”
Premier Wynne talks with Senator Gary Peters about trade policy.
Premier Wynne talks with Senator Gary Peters about trade policy.
Premier Kathleen Wynne
One actor forwarded CBC Toronto a copy of the casting call, which offered 20 actors the chance to be paid $75 "to play real people at a Ford nation rally" from 2 to 8 p.m. ET.
The email said “You will be wearing T-shirts of the PC candidates (Ford and Cartwright),” The email went on, offering $75 to the actors, who were expected to be present from the start of the afternoon rally at 2 p.m. to the end of the debate at 8 p.m.
Narang, along with a number of other actors, turned down the gig. “I was shocked to see this happen in Canada, in Toronto,” said Narang. “I find it offensive even to the Canadian democracy.”
It won't happen again
PC Party spokesperson Melissa Lantsman said on Twitter, "This will not happen again." She also added, "Doug Ford has attracted record crowds since entering the race for PC leader. This has become even stronger since winning the leadership.”
Greens Leader Mike Schreiner leads protest against CityNews for denying Greens a spot on Monday nigh...
Greens Leader Mike Schreiner leads protest against CityNews for denying Greens a spot on Monday night's live debate.
Green Party Ontario
According to CBC's updated Ontario Poll Tracker, the Progressive Conservatives under Doug Ford continue to hold a commanding lead in the polls and are well-positioned to secure a majority government.
The PCs have 41.8 percent support.
The Liberals have 26.2 percent support.
The NDP has 25.5 percent support.
The Green Party wasn't invited to participate in the debate, but Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner's supporters were present in the crowd out front of CityStudios. They wore green tape over their mouths and staged a silent protest. But just so he would be heard, Schreiner Tweeted his answers to the debate questions to his supporters.
More about Ontario, Politics, Doug Ford, Debate, hired actors
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