May 3, 2013 6:00 am

‘Big Brother Canada’ crowns winner in controversial finale

Big Brother Canada winner Jillian MacLaughlin.

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TORONTO – There are no hanging chads, but controversy swirls over a questionable vote that has crowned a Nova Scotia teacher the first-ever Big Brother Canada champ.

Athletic brunette Jillian MacLaughlin scored four votes from a seven-member jury tasked with deciding between her and her flamboyant co-finalist Gary Levy.

She eked out a win thanks to a surprise nod from Levy’s best friend Topaz Brady, who made it clear throughout Thursday’s two-hour finale she was rooting for Levy.

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Upon realizing she mistakenly voted for MacLaughlin instead, Brady pleaded with show bosses to allow her vote be changed — to no avail. The flap elicited cheers and jeers from the studio audience who quickly took sides with boisterous catcalls.

Click here to see what Brady had to say about her vote.

As a result, MacLaughlin claims a $100,000 prize, along with a Chevy Trax and a $25,000 gift card to The Brick. As runner-up, Levy gets a $20,000 cash prize.

The first-ever Big Brother Canada saw 15 houseguests confined to a camera-rigged house, with no contact with the outside world. It wrapped after 10 weeks on Thursday with a two-hour finale on Slice.

“(I’m) really excited, overwhelmed,” the 27-year-old MacLaughlin said after the show taped, dismissing suggestions she didn’t actually earn the votes needed.

“I know the production has been very strict on rules this season, I know that it’s set myself and (fellow houseguest) Emmett (Blois) back in the game a fair bit, just by them being: ‘Nope, rules are rules.’ So rules are rules. Gary deserved this just as much as me, he played a great game but at the end of the day, the rules are rules and I ended up winning.”

Backstage, Levy unleashed a bear hug on Brady, insisting he didn’t hold any hard feelings over the outcome. Facing reporters backstage, he said he felt like a winner.

“I’m definitely a little bit disappointed, I came into this game to win,” said Levy, who donned a glittering black and gold cocktail dress for the finale.

“But stuff happens and I still feel like I’m a winner no matter what.”

Click here to watch clips from the Big Brother Canada reunion on The Morning Show.

Levy’s allies were more outspoken in their assessment — pot-stirrer Peter Brown denounced the outcome with his trademark bluster.

“Jillian did not triumph over anything, she was rewarded by Topaz’s mistake, an honest mistake,” said Brown, flanked by his partner-in-crime Alec Beall, who dubbed their partnership “the Sheyld” (pronounced “Shield”).

“Jillian did not deserve to win this game at all. Gary should have been the winner.”

Brown’s cohort Alec Beall agreed, stating “there will forever be an asterisk next to Jillian’s name as the winner of Big Brother Canada season 1.”

“But that’s drama, that’s perfect for the show and future seasons, perhaps,” said Beall.

The flap certainly added spice to the final moments of the finale.

“No. Someone switched it, please don’t do this to me,” Brady said to host Arisa Cox upon realizing her mistake.

“We were really, really clear,” Arisa said apologetically.

Despite the controversy, MacLaughlin says the unexpected last-minute wrinkle doesn’t taint her achievements.

“I don’t care, anybody can say what they want to say about how I won this but I’m happy with my game and I’m proud of myself,” said MacLaughlin, who won four “Head of Household” competitions.

“I definitely deserved to win this game as well. I played a good game, I played a hard game, I made big moves, I was a strong competitor, I’m happy with my game.”

Big Brother Canada aired on Slice, which is owned by Shaw Media, the parent company of Global News.

© The Canadian Press, 2013

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