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Hudak photo-op on subway derailed by transit cops upset with media

Ontario Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak buys flowers for Mothers Day with his daughter Miller at Growers Flower Market on Avenue Rd. in Toronto on Sunday, May 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

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Ontario Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak buys flowers for Mothers Day with his daughter Miller at Growers Flower Market on Avenue Rd. in Toronto on Sunday, May 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

TORONTO - A major Ontario election platform announcement from the Progressive Conservatives nearly went off the rails Sunday as transit officers put the brakes on a subway photo-op by leader Tim Hudak.

Hudak and a throng of media were in the process of boarding a Toronto subway train around noon Sunday when city transit police appeared and started asking about video camera lights and shooting permits.

The Tory leader was to ride the train with the pack of journalists up to mid-town Toronto and unveil his party's transportation platform by a subway yard.

But after hopping on the northbound subway the trip was brought to a standstill by Toronto Transit Commission officers, who showed up on the platform and took umbrage with the light on a CBC camera.

They summoned the camera operator off the car and questioned other TV journalists on whether they had permission to film on transit property.

"In order to film on the TTC you need to have authorization. We're trying to see if you guys have that authorization," one officer said.

Meanwhile, Tory staffers tried to cool things down in an attempt to keep the media stunt on course, reassuring the subway cops that no recording would take place.

TTC rules state that those looking to take video on the city transit system for commercial purposes must get an OK in advance, while political canvassing is off limits.

As the situation went on, agitation among riders making Mother's Day trips started to rise, with the hold-up dragging on for about 10 minutes. One bellowed "come on" at the whole ordeal.

Despite passengers getting grumpy and some tense moments with transit police, Hudak kept his composure, at times flashing a smile fit for a campaign sign as he watched things play out.

With no immediate end to the impasse in sight, Hudak then hopped off the car — taking the media in tow — and left the station.

Hudak hopped in a vehicle to get to his platform unveiling, while Tory staffers corralled the media bus to whisk journalists to the slightly delayed announcement.

There, Hudak revealed that if elected his Tories would have the province take control of Toronto subways, among other promises aimed at relieving gridlock.

Speaking about the incident, Hudak said he felt "terrible" about it and hoped the delay didn't disrupt any Mother's Day celebrations. A party spokesman apologized, saying they didn't think of getting clearance in advance.

The official Progressive Conservative Twitter account quickly made political hay of the incident, charging that Premier Kathleen Wynne had been allowed a photo-op on TTC turf.

But a Wynne spokeswoman shot down that suggestion, saying the premier's office "followed all of their rules" for a media-tailored subway ride last month, before the election call.

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