Security company says guard who blocked CBC News camera was 'instructed by the PC party'
PC spokesperson says party officials did not ask security to remove media
The company that employed a security guard seen blocking a CBC News reporter's camera during a live television report outside the Ontario Progressive Conservative policy convention is speaking out, saying the guard took instructions directly from party officials.
"We were instructed by the PC party to remove media from the property," Viking Security co-owner Tammy Rolland told CBC News. "We did not create the 'no media' rule nor did we act on our own accord."
The party's director of communications, Christina Wramhed, denied that in a statement late Saturday. "At no point did anyone from the Ontario PC Party instruct security to remove media from the property," she said.
Queen's Park reporter Mike Crawley was in the midst of a live news hit for CBC's Power and Politics Friday afternoon, when a guard was seen stepping in front of his camera, blocking his shot.
Video of the roughly three-minute incident, which amassed thousands of views online, ends with a party official telling the guard to stand down. The party apologized for the incident shortly afterward.
Crawley had been reporting outside the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont., where the party was meeting to discuss its priorities for the 2022 provincial election.
WATCH | Security guard blocks CBC reporter outside PC convention:
He was positioned outside the convention centre because the PCs were not allowing media inside the building where delegates were registering. On Saturday, the security company said Crawley was in fact on private property at the time of the incident, saying the sidewalk in front of the building is public property, while the walkway at the side of the building is not.
Viking Security told CBC News that while it was hired by the convention centre, it was acting on instructions from the party itself — something PC House Leader and MPP Paul Calandra would not acknowledge when speaking to reporters.
'Dragged through the mud for following instructions'
"It's not something that we wanted to happen," Calandra said, after apologizing directly to Crawley.
"We understand how important it is that the media have access to us. You have a job to do and we appreciate that. Also, if I'm not mistaken ... one of the party officials tried to interrupt the security official."
Rolland told CBC News the company has found itself being "dragged through the mud for following instructions," saying the guard was told by a party official to go outside to confront Crawley, just minutes before being told to stand down.
Had the guard known he would have been called back part-way through, he wouldn't have approached Crawley, she said, adding officials were standing in the window while the encounter unfolded.
Several reporters asked Calandra on Saturday why the convention was largely off limits to the media. The convention, which began Friday night, was off limits to reporters until Saturday at 3 p.m. The PCs then let media in only for the news conference with Calandra and a subsequent speech by Premier Doug Ford.
Policy discussions meant to be kept 'within the family'
Calandra responded that the purpose of the event was not to discuss government business, but rather deliberations the party "wanted to keep within the family."
WATCH | PC House Leader responds to reporters' questions about security guard incident:
"These are party discussions with respect to the policies and priorities that the party will bring forward in the next campaign so I'm sure you can appreciate that... Our grassroots members would like to have that opportunity to have those discussions in private."
Viking Security was not immediately able to provide the name of the party official who sent the guard out onto the walkway.
The company added that it has provided security to the convention centre for about three years, and that the guard worked with the centre for several years before that. Not all events held at the centre are closed to media — that determination is made on a case-by-case basis depending on the parameters set out by the client.
"We follow clear instructions that are laid out by clients and are in line with the law, which is what we did and have always done," Rolland said.