Marie Kelly succeeds Stephen Waddell as ACTRA National Executive Director

Toronto, ON (April 8, 2019) — Seasoned labour lawyer Marie Kelly has been tapped to helm ACTRA, the national union of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media sector in Canada, as National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator.

“On behalf of ACTRA performers we are thrilled to announce Marie Kelly as our new National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator,” said David Sparrow, ACTRA National President. “Recognizing Marie’s long-standing career and vast leadership expertise in the labour movement, our union will continue to set the standards for collective bargaining in the arts, to be a leading voice for Canadian culture and to fight for the rights of professional performers.”

Marie Kelly is a veteran lawyer with a long history of representing workers’ rights within Canada’s labour movement. Ms. Kelly comes to ACTRA after six years at the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) where she most recently held the role of CEO/CAO. Prior to ONA, she worked for the United Steelworkers where, over the course of 22 years, she served in various capacities including as executive director, legal counsel and became the first woman in North America to be appointed to the position of Assistant Director.

Ms. Kelly officially assumes her role at ACTRA today upon Stephen Waddell’s retirement with Waddell staying on with the union in an advisory role until fall 2020.

“For almost 40 years, Stephen Waddell has been a champion for Canadian performers and has led us in the creation of some of the most ground-breaking collective agreements not just in our industry but in the world,” added Sparrow. “For always demanding fair compensation and credit for the work of our members and for always encouraging us to stand our ground and stick together, we thank Stephen for his devotion to our union.”

Stephen Waddell began his career in 1970 as a Toronto-based staff representative for the International Woodworkers of America. In 1972, Stephen left the IWA to work as Assistant General Secretary of ACTRA where he remained until 1984 when he was recruited by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and moved to Los Angeles where he became SAG’s Assistant Hollywood Executive Director. Leaving SAG in 1988 to return to Canada, Stephen became a talent agent at a national talent agency based in Toronto where he successfully represented leading performers, writers and directors. In 1992, Stephen was enticed back to work for ACTRA as National Executive Director where he remained until now as chief negotiator and chief of staff of the national performers’ union.

In 2007, Stephen led ACTRA members through their first strike in the union’s history which ultimately led to the first collective bargaining agreement in the world to contain provisions for Digital Media production and Use. In 2015, Stephen headed negotiations that resulted in another ground-breaking achievement – the establishment of a Prepayment for Use of all Digital Media productions, which allows Canadian performers to enjoy the best contractual minimum fees and Use rights for Digital Media production in the world.

ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) is the national union of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. ACTRA represents the interests of over 25,000 members across the country – the foundation of Canada’s highly acclaimed professional performing community.


Media Contact: Carol Taverner, Public Relations Officer, ACTRA National, tel: 416-644-1519, email: