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

Northwest mines lengthen crew rotations in response to COVID-19

Northern Health confident precautions sufficient enough to keep work camps open

Coastal GasLink gives $100K to United Way efforts in Northern B.C.

Organization’s COVID-19 Relief Fund benefits seniors in isolation, among others

Don’t delay going to the ER if you have an ‘urgent or emergent’ medical problem: Chief of Staff

Dr. Rebecca Janssen writes a weekly letter to residents of the Omineca Region.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada lifts at-sea observer requirements due to COVID-19

Fisheries Management Order went into effect April 2 and will remain for 45 days

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

Most Read