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Ad company rejects calls to remove anti-immigration billboard

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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.


anti-immigration billboard

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 are not the product of the People’s Party of Canada,” Johanne Mennie, the party’s executive director, said in a phone interview Friday with Global News. “They are authorized by a third party and the PPC has not been in any contact with this third party.”

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.

Last week, Smeenk declined to comment on the billboard beyond what appeared in the Elections Canada filing. The Canadian Press attempted to reach Smeenk again on Friday, but he did not respond.

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.

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

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.

“There is nothing called ‘mass immigration’ in Canada,” Hadhad told Global News in a phone interview Saturday.

“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.”

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Lieutenant governor urged to withhold assent on bill 22

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NDP leader Rachel Notley has asked Alberta’s lieutenant-governor to deny assent of Bill 22, controversial legislation introduced Monday that would fire Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson in the middle of his investigation into the UCP leadership race.

The race was won by Premier Jason Kenney in October 2017.

Gibson has been focusing on the so-called “kamikaze” leadership bid of Jeff Callaway since he took office last year and has laid more than $200,000 in fines against 15 people involved.

The Callaway and Kenney campaigns are alleged to have conspired to bring down Kenney’s main opponent Brian Jean. Both men deny the collaboration.

Notley sent a letter on Tuesday to Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell urging her to take action on a bill Notley calls a “misuse of the authority of the legislature” and “a threat to our democratic institutions” — particularly since the government has moved to limit time for debate.

Position would be terminated

“While I recognize that it is unusual for the lieutenant-governor to exercise this authority, I am convinced that the exceptional nature of this proposed legislation calls for such extraordinary measures,” Notley writes.

The move to fire Gibson is part of Bill 22, an omnibus-style bill introduced Monday.

The proposed legislation would dissolve the independent office of the election commissioner and change the scope of the position so it reports to Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler.

Gibson’s contract, which was in place until 2023, would be terminated upon passage and royal assent of the bill.

The government claims the move achieves greater efficiency and saves $1 million over five years.

Critics say that by removing Gibson, Premier Jason Kenney is thwarting additional investigations into the race.

Finance Minister Travis Toews, the minister responsible for Bill 22, said Resler is free to rehire Gibson if he chooses. Toews said the change will have no effect on ongoing investigations.

The NDP will also seek an emergency debate on the bill Tuesday afternoon. Since the UCP has a majority in the Alberta legislature, the request likely will not be granted.

Notley said on Monday the NDP caucus will also be seeking advice on what legal steps can be taken to stop the government from firing Gibson.

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Snowfall hits Calgary, surrounding area

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Calgary drivers are in for a slow and slippery morning commute as the city gets a little blast of winter weather.

Calgary is expected to see 10 to 15 centimetres of snowfall on Tuesday, according to a warning from Environment Canada.

The agency says a low pressure system swept into southwestern Alberta late Monday and tracked east early Tuesday morning.

The snow is expected to taper off by Wednesday morning.

“Prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow,” the warning read.

Traffic was slow on Parkdale Boulevard N.W. as snow continued to fall Tuesday morning. (Scott Crowson/CBC)

The Calgary International Airport is reminding travellers to arrive early and check for any flight-schedule changes due to the snowfall.

Calgary Transit says two bus routes — No. 6 and No. 20 — have been detoured because of the snowfall.

Police said there were six collisions on city streets between midnight and 6:30 a.m.

The snowfall warning also covers:

  • Airdrie, Cochrane, Olds and Sundre.
  • Okotoks, High River and Claresholm.
  • Brooks, Strathmore and Vulcan.
  • Medicine Hat, Bow Island and Suffield.

A complete list of weather warnings can be viewed on Environment Canada’s website.

Rachelle McNiel shovels snow on the sidewalk outside her home on 27th Street N.W. on Tuesday. (Scott Crowson/CBC)

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François-Philippe Champagne to be Canada’s next foreign affairs minister

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François-Philippe Champagne will be Canada’s new foreign affairs minister, CBC-Radio-Canada has learned.

Champagne, who served as the minister of infrastructure and communities in the last Parliament, will replace Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s top diplomat, tasked with stickhandling the sensitive U.S. and China files.

It’s not yet known where Freeland will be moved, but she is expected to preside over a crucial domestic role as regional tensions rise across the country.

Champagne, a former trade lawyer, has served as minister of international trade in the past.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will formally unveil his new cabinet at a ceremony at Rideau Hall Wednesday afternoon.

Radio-Canada is also reporting that Jonathan Wilkinson will be the new environment minister.

Pablo Rodriguez will be the government house leader, in charge of working with opposition parties and keeping the parliamentary agenda on track. It’s a position that takes on heightened importance in a minority government.

Steven Guilbeault, a high-profile Quebec environmental activist, will be the new heritage minister, according to sources with knowledge of the appointments who spoke to CBC-Radio Canada. The sources spoke on condition they not be named because they were not authorized to comment.

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