'Overwhelming' criticism leads company to remove Bernier billboards
A billboard advertising the party of controversial political leader Maxime Bernier is drawing ire in the City of Calgary.
The sign, posted on the side of a building in Hillhurst, has an election message from the leader of the People's Party of Canada which states "say NO to mass immigration."
An online petition against the signs has already received more than 600 signatures over the weekend.
Liberal candidate for Calgary-Confederation, Jordan Stein, organized the petition. She says the message is offensive and does not reflect the rich contributions new immigrants bring to Canada’s culture and community.
"Many of the people living here, almost 20 per cent of the residents here, are immigrants to Canada and the majority are economic immigrants o they’re chosen selectively to contribute to the Canadian economy,” Stein told CTV Monday morning. "Then the refugees are supported by the Hillhurst community and the community association so I think it framed the problem in the sense that we have a problem with too many immigrants when you talk to residents here and that is not the problem."
Some people have already taken notice of the sign on social media, including the Liberal MP for Calgary-Centre, Kent Hehr.
The advertising is being paid for by a third-party group called True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp., which is run by Frank Smeenk, the head of a Toronto mining exploration company. The firm spent $60,000 to put up the billboards in select cities in Canada.
The company answered the criticism with two statements on Sunday, with the first saying anyone who didn't like the ads should take it up with True North Strong and Free Advertising Corp., the firm that paid for the billboard to be placed. It added the signage did not violate the Ad Standards of Canada code.
However, later on Sunday, Pattison's president Randy Otto released a second statement agreeing to remove them, saying it was 'never his intention to offend anyone.'
The company says it intends to inform True North Advertising Corp. of its decision on Monday and the signage will come down as soon as possible.
The sign in Calgary has since been taken down
At the People's Party of Canada's national campaign launch on Sunday in Sainte-Marie, Que., Bernier said he agreed with the billboard's message but added they were placed by an third-party group. He also said the current number of immigrants Canada accepts annually, approximately 350,000, is too high and needs to be scaled back.
(With files from the Canadian Press)