Anti-NDP ‘Fire Phillips’ billboard flagged to Alberta election commissioner

A "Fire Phillips" billboard appeared on the side of a truck south of Edmonton on March 5, 2019. Global News

UPDATE: On March 26, 2019, Elections Alberta tweeted an apology and said it had erroneously tweeted that “the complaint has been sent to the office of the election commissioner.” It said the tweet was “inaccurate as no complaint had been sent to the Office of the Election Commissioner in respect of the billboard” or in respect of Sheila Gunn Reid or Ezra Levant.

Elections Alberta has received several complaints about a billboard that says “Fire Phillips,” along with photos of Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and Premier Rachel Notley.

On Wednesday, the billboard could be seen along Highway 2, just south of Leduc, Alta.

The display says it was authorized by Ezra Levant, who runs an independent, far-right internet company, Rebel Media.

Chief Electoral Officer Drew Westwater said Elections Alberta is aware of the billboard and “will be reviewing the advertisement to determine if there is any further action required by this office.”

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READ MORE: Rebel Media speaker says pride flag and swastikas comparison ‘unintentional,’ apologizes

In an online article about the billboard, the Rebel explained it chose Phillips as the focus because of the way she handled public consultations about the proposed Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park. The article claims Phillips lied about threats being made against supporters of the proposal “to shut up locals who were showing up at her sham consultations.”

Under Alberta legislation, a third party must register with Elections Alberta when it spends or plans to spend more than $1,000 on election or political advertising.

READ MORE: Alberta election 2019: What’s changed when it comes to campaign financing?

In a statement, Phillips’ office said:

“The Rebel has a long history of attacks on women, minorities and people of color, LGBTQ Albertans and has strong associations with hate groups in Canada. We have no comment on the misogynist activities of such groups.”

The election commissioner found Levant previously broke that rule in January when Rebel Media used crowdfunded money to pay for a “Fire Eggen” billboard targeting Education Minister David Eggen.

“We were fined, without a day in court, for putting up a billboard without first registering as a third-party advertiser,” Tuesday’s Rebel article said. “We’re not a third-party advertiser. We’re journalists with an editorial opinion, so we’re fighting the legitimacy of that censorship law.”

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Under the findings and decisions section of Elections Alberta’s website, Rebel News is listed as receiving a letter of reprimand on Feb. 14 for failing to apply for registration as a third party. The entry also noted an application for judicial review has been made.

Anyone with a complaint or allegation regarding the Election Act or the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act being broken should contact Alberta election commissioner.

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