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Ad company rejects calls to remove anti-immigration billboard featuring Maxime Bernier

Ad company rejects calls to remove anti-immigration billboard featuring Maxime Bernier
Canada
The owner of billboards currently showcasing ads that promote the People’s Party of Canada’s controversial stance on immigration says the material is staying up.

The ads, featuring a photo of party leader Maxime Bernier , the slogan “Say NO to mass immigration” and a call to vote for his party, started popping up across the country late last week. They were criticized nearly immediately as promoting what some called hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Petitions have since sprung up to call for the owner of the billboards, Pattison Outdoor Advertising, to take the ads down, arguing that they violate the company’s own code of conduct.

But the company issued a statement Sunday saying that if people have a problem, they should contact the advertiser, True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp.

Pattison’s statement suggested they had reviewed the ad content and did not find it violation of the Ad Standards of Canada (ASC) code or their own policies.

“We take a neutral position on ads that comply with the ASC code as we believe Canadians do not want us to be the judge or arbiter of what the public can or cannot see,” the company said in a statement circulated on their social media accounts.

“Should advertising elicit a public debate, we encourage Canadians to voice their opinions directly to the advertiser who placed the message as it is our policy that their contact information must be a legible part of the ad.”

The company said they will monitor the signs to ensure the contact information remains up, and if it doesn’t, they will remove the campaign.

In their statement, Pattison Outdoor included a link to the People’s Party of Canada platform, prefacing it by saying it “outlines that they would prioritize economic immigration over mass immigration.”

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The People’s Party platform pledges to dramatically slash the number of immigrants Canada accepts, arguing the Liberals and Conservatives use “mass immigration” as a political tool to buy votes. On top of cutting the number of people admitted, the party would cancel a program that allows people to sponsor their parents and grandparents, and strictly limit other family immigration programs, as well as accept far fewer refugees.

The billboards have been reported in Halifax, parts of Quebec, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Regina and Vancouver. The People’s Party of Canada has said it is not associated with the group that put up the signs.

According to a filing with Elections Canada, the third-party group behind the ads is run by Frank Smeenk, the chief executive of a Toronto-based mining exploration company.

The group filed interim financial returns with Elections Canada that show it spent $59,890 on billboards in “select cities in Canada” and received $60,000 from Bassett & Walker International Inc., a company that specializes in the international trade of protein products.

Similarly, messages left at Bassett & Walker were not returned.

Bernier officially launched the party’s national campaign Sunday at an event about two hours outside Montreal.

Polls suggest the party has around 4 per cent of voter support heading into the October election, and thus far, Bernier has been excluded from the official leadership debates.

Arshia Vosoughi’s family immigrated to Canada from Iran when he was seven years old. Vosoughi, who points out that his parents are doctors, says that there are many skilled immigrants who come to Canada from different countries.

“I think it’s ridiculous to say ‘no immigration, ” said Vosoughi. “It’s one of the least Canadian things I’ve seen in all my time in this country.”

Peace by Chocolate founder Tareq Hadhad, who came to Nova Scotia as a Syrian refugee in 2016, says that the billboard is both divisive and inaccurate.

“Saying ‘mass immigration’ is certainly trying to make an illusion to the public that, you know, like caravans and waves of millions of people trying to hit the border, coming through the airports, but this is not happening.”

Negative reactions to the billboard were raised fast, especially in Halifax where local politicians took to Twitter to denounce both the board and Bernier.

How about no to Maxime Bernier, instead. There s no place in Nova Scotia for the PPC s politics of fear & division.

Our province is a welcoming place, one where newcomers become our neighbours. We also understand that immigration is key to addressing our demographic challenges. https://t.co/RA0czEYOix

As Premier, I welcome everyone to Nova Scotia – but I don’t welcome this negative, divisive tone. 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. https://t.co/3xI5iWOL7w

Immigration is critical to the future of Nova Scotia and Canada. This type of rhetoric only creates division. Very disappointing to see this being promoted on a billboard in Nova Scotia. https://t.co/kv6dsOphmx
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