Doug Ford looking into why actors were hired as PC supporters at Ontario leaders' debate

PC Leader Doug Ford told reporters he's looking into why actors were paid $75 to be part of the crowd at the Ontario leaders' debate Monday night.

'We don't need to pay anyone,' Progressive Conservative leader told reporters

Ontario PC supporters rallied outside the first televised leaders' debate in Toronto on Monday. Some of those supporters were paid actors, a PC spokesperson confirmed. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford told reporters he's looking into why actors were paid $75 to be part of the crowd at the Ontario leaders' debate Monday night.

Ford was asked about the move during a Tuesday morning news conference after actors told local media about the casting call. 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.

Dozens of noisy Ford supporters rallied in front of the Citytv studios ahead of the debate, waving signs and shouting support for the PC leader and Meredith Cartwright, the PC candidate for Toronto Centre.

The emailed casting call states actors would be wearing "T-shirts of the PC candidates [Ford and Cartwright]."

Ford did not confirm that some people in the crowd were actors, telling reporters the question was the first he had heard of it.

However, his spokesperson, Melissa Lantsman, said in an email that a local candidate hired actors from a casting agency. Lantsman called the decision "unnecessary and a mistake," and said "it will not happen again."

Ford said at a news conference Tuesday that he wasn't told about the paid actors. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Lantsman didn't confirm Cartwright was behind the casting call, but Ford told reporters he would speak with the candidate about the matter. 

"We don't need to pay anyone. When we have events, we're packed," Ford said. "We don't need that."

Cartwright posted several photos and videos on Twitter of supporters holding up signs supporting her and Ford ahead of the debate.

Devanshu Narang, who works as a "background performer," was one of the actors who received the email. He declined the job, citing in part poor pay, but also said he found the job "strange."

"The main thing was that, you know, the moment I saw that I kind of felt odd about it," Narang told CBC Toronto.

"You know, politicians hiring actors to play supporters is like the way it works in the Third World."

Campaign supporters should be at events because they believe in the candidate's or party's values, he said. In his view, paying actors affects a politician's credibility.

"You could go to any length to show you have a base," he said.

Ford's campaign has already caused controversy by opting against offering a campaign bus for reporters, while also using staff to conduct TV news-style interviews.