Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, speaks at the launch of his campaign on Sunday, August 25, 2019 in Sainte-Marie Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Billboard company ‘appalled’ no one taking ownership of anti-immigration Bernier ads

CEO of company that paid for ad has said he didn’t sign off on it

The owner of the billboards that featured ads promoting Maxime Bernier and his stance on immigration said they would have stayed up had the third-party group that paid for them not left his company twisting in the wind.

Randy Otto, the president of Pattison Outdoor Advertising, said his company agreed to run the ads on the condition that True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp. identify itself and let people viewing the billboards know how to get in touch.

Otto said his company felt the group, which is registered with Elections Canada as a third-party advertiser in the 2019 campaign, was entitled to promote the views on immigration held by Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada — as long as it was prepared to deal with any fallout.

The billboards, which feature pre-election advertising with Bernier’s face, the logo of his People’s Party of Canada and a slogan advocating against “mass immigration,” started appearing in different spots across the country late last week.

They quickly sparked criticism, including from Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, for promoting anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Otto said he did not like having been left alone to defend the ads or appreciate Bernier’s accusing him of caving to a “totalitarian leftist mob” when he decided to take the ads off Pattison billboards.

READ MORE: Maxime Bernier blames billboard woes on ‘totalitarian leftist mob’

“I think probably for me, the biggest concern I have is people’s impression of the company and that we are trying to restrict free speech,” Otto said in an interview Tuesday.

“More than that, has been the very strong vocal, sometimes venomous, calls to my staff across the country, where people are expressing their opinions about the decision to either put the ads up or take them down,” he said. “And so people who had nothing to do with this decision and are simply answering the phone are getting extremely vicious calls from members of the public and that’s very unfortunate.”

Otto said he was “overwhelmed” and ”appalled” to see Frank Smeenk, the head of the third-party group, tell The Canadian Press he disavowed the ad and that he mistakenly did not get the chance to sign off on the controversial campaign.

Otto said his company received the finished ad directly from True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp.

“This was not a large campaign,” Otto said. “For him to say that he had no idea of the message, I find quite surprising.”

Smeenk, chief executive of a Toronto-based mining company, has not responded to follow-up questions.

Elections Canada requires all third-party partisan advertising to include a clearly visible tagline identifying the group behind it and indicating that the group has authorized the ad. Photos of the billboards show this tagline was included.

According to financial returns the group has filed with Elections Canada, True North Strong & Free Advertising spent $59,890 on billboards to be mounted in “select cities in Canada.”

It also received $60,000 from Bassett & Walker International Inc., a company that specializes in the international trade of protein products.

Messages left at Bassett & Walker have not yet been returned.

The People’s Party of Canada did not place the ads, but Bernier has said he agreed with their message.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Active cases in central zone up Tuesday

Central zone active cases remains lowest of all zones

PHOTOS: Eckville graduates receive their diplomas, finally

Eckville Jr./Sr. High School held a socially distanced grad over the weekend

Central zone active cases down to 20

Province provides update

Gord Bamford serenades Sylvan Lake at sold out concert

Gord Bamford played for a sold out crowd at a drive-in concert Sept. 19 in Sylvan Lake

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

RCMP say body located of man who fell in river during stop for photos in Banff

Parks Canada has said the man was from India and living in Canada on a work visa

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

Lacombe beekeepers give the buzz on winterizing hives

Winterizing a honeybee hive is not a simple task, local apiarists say

Six injured, man in custody following BB gun incident in Alberta, RCMP say

Airdrie’s downtown core was told to shelter-in-place, while others nearby were asked to stay inside

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Most Read