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Doug Ford defends Ontario election debate ‘cheat sheet’

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Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford occasionally referred to a black binder filled with highlighted notes during the Ontario Election leadership debate, which served as an underlying issue during the 90 minute sparring match.

Even before the debate began, the Ontario Liberal Party tweeted an image of Ford preparing for the verbal joust by placing a black folder on his podium and tucking away a notepad provided by the TVO — which hosted the debate on behalf of a consortium of broadcasters.

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The presence of Ford’s notes was then highlighted by debate moderator Althia Raj who pointed out the position of the broadcast consortium on the issue.

“The leaders were asked not to bring cheat sheets, props or briefing books so that this could be an unscripted conversation,” Raj said.

Read more: Party leaders clash over affordability, healthcare and environment during debate

Ford, who was seen occasionally glancing at his notes at key moments during the debate, defended the presence of the binder and viewers attitudes towards it.

“There’s nothing wrong with putting notes to make sure you’re organized,” Ford told reporters after the debate. “Guess what? People don’t care about that.”

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Ford’s opponents pointed out, however, they followed the instructions from the broadcast consortium and kept their notes off the podium, choosing to speak from memory.

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Ford’s reliance on notes was often referenced by his opponents during the debate as evidence of the PC party scripting Ford’s talking points.

“I heard Mr. Ford speak and it sounds like he’s reading the script from four years ago,” Del Duca said.

Read more: ‘Have you talked to a nurse lately?’: Health care at heart of Ontario election debate

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose podium stood beside Ford, noted his perceived dependency on his talking points.

“He referred to it quite a bit. That was his choice, that was his decision,” Horwath said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner pointed out the PC leader’s focus seemed to be on slogans over solutions to the issues presented by the moderators, and suggested Ford was looking for talking points to deliver his jabs.

“I think Mr. Ford is really good at delivering lots of slogans,” Schreiner charged. “I don’t know if that’s what he was looking down at, like, ‘Hey, did I get the right slogan in here or not?'”

Read more: Ontario Votes Roundup: The gloves are off, but did anyone land a punch?

PC campaign insiders also defended Ford’s use of the binder and what they believe was a positive impact on his debate performance.

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“Clearly having the binder is serving [Ford] well because he is clearly winning,” the insider told Global News.

Election day is on June 2.

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