With October’s federal election only mere months away, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Canada’s politicians would be on their best behaviour. However, with the latest installments of Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal and Scheer’s 2005 anti-gay-marriage video leaking, it is hard to believe there was any more room for controversey in Canadian politics this week. Alas, not to be outdone, the People’s Party of Canada are the latest to indulge in a bit of pre-election drama, after receiving widespread criticism for a number of offensive billboards that have popped up nationwide.
The new billboard, that endorses the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), was first spotted on a Halifax highway on Friday morning. The advertisement shows PPC leader Maxime Bernier’s smiling face, alongside the message “Say NO to mass immigration.” Yikes.
As should have been expected, within hours of the billboard going up, it was doing the rounds on social media, with Canadians from far-and-wide condemning the billboard’s message and calling for its removal.
One of the first people to share their opinion on the billboard was Nova Scotia’s Liberal premier, Stephen McNeil. In a tweet on Friday, he wrote, “As premier, I welcome everyone to Nova Scotia - but I don't welcome this negative, divisive tone.”
McNeil continued, “Our population is at an all-time high, unemployment is at a record low and our economy is growing, in large part thanks to immigration. That's fact, not opinion."
The billboards, which are reported to have appeared in Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Toronto, and Regina, drew equal criticism across the board, with many Canadians also using Twitter to share their opinions on the signs.
One user wrote, “As a Mi’kmaw person, I can’t begin to express how annoying/hypocritical it is when I hear non-Indigenous people complain about immigrants/refugees. My ancestors welcomed and helped newcomers to this land. So do I.”
Another simply said, “It's disgusting and should be taken down.”
According to CBC News, the People’s Party of Canada claims to have had no involvement in the erection of the billboards, explaining that they were authorized by a third party. When probed further, the party refused to answer any other questions about the signs, simply saying that the PPC had not been in contact with the company that paid for them.
This third party is thought to be True North Strong and Free Advertising Corporation, which is run by a Toronto mining executive named Frank Smeenk. According to documents filed with Elections Canada, Smeenk spent almost $60,000 to run billboards in Canadian cities between August and September.
One of the common themes in the social media response to the advertisements was to call on the billboard network company, Pattison Outdoors, to take them down. Several users shared the contact details of the company, and have started petitions to have the signs removed, but the president of Pattison Outdoors told CBC News that the billboards meet all of their standards.
He explained that as long as the advocate is clearly defined, and the group that paid for the billboard is clearly identified, then the sign is not breaking any rules.
At the time of writing, the PPC had not addressed whether or not they would be seeking to remove the billboards.