‘One of the least Canadian things I’ve seen’: anti-immigration billboard sparks anger in Halifax

New billboard on Bedford highway calls on voters to ‘say no to mass immigration’
WATCH: A controversial billboard ad that endorses the People’s Party of Canada has popped up in Bedford. And as Graeme Benjamin reports, the party is distancing itself from the billboard, but not necessarily from its message.

A new billboard that endorses the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) and calls on voters to “say NO to mass immigration” has many wondering how the ad was approved in the first place.

The billboard along the Bedford Highway, featuring an image of People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier, was first seen by Halifax commuters Friday morning.

Reaction to the message was swift, with many calling for its immediate removal.

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But according to the People’s Party, they had nothing to do with the billboard’s installation.

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“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. “They are authorized by a third party and the PPC has not been in any contact with this third party.”

According to the bottom of the ad, it’s authorized by True North Strong and Free Advertising Corp. That organization is headed up by Frank Smeenk, the president and CEO of mining company KWG Resources in Toronto.

No one with the company replied to a request for comment. According to The Canadian Press, the group filed interim financial returns with Elections Canada that show it spent $59,890 on billboards in “select cities in Canada.” The billboards have also been seen in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Randy Otto with Pattison Outdoor would not comment on the advertisement or its message, but noted that the company that paid for the advertisement is “clearly displayed” at the bottom.

“If they wish to discuss the terms of the contract, that would be up to them,” Otto said.

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People’s Party of Canada says it opposes Islamism and globalism, receives standing ovation
People’s Party of Canada says it opposes Islamism and globalism, receives standing ovation

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The People’s Party’s controversial views include the end of “official” multiculturalism in Canada and the preservation of “Canadian values and culture.” Bernier has vowed to axe the Canadian Multiculturalism Act if elected and cancel all funding that promotes the concept.

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The party was founded last year and plans to run candidates in every riding in the upcoming federal election.

The PPC would not comment on whether they have plans to seek the billboard’s removal. But several residents in Halifax on Friday wanted to see it gone.

“In more liberal times, that would not be the sort of thing that anyone would want to be associated with,” said Andrew Kernohan.

“It’s a bit on the miserable side.”

Arshia Vosoughi, whose family immigrated to Canada from Iran when he was just 7 years old, points to the economic boost that immigration can provide.

“My parents are doctors … a very high number of skilled jobs are immigrants who come 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.”

Nova Scotia politicians have also taken to social media to condemn the message.

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Dalhousie University political sociologist Howard Ramos is unsure of how effective the ad will be, as there’s a great deal of support for immigration in the Atlantic region.

“Certainly there will be some people in Halifax that will respond to it, but the overwhelming majority of people in Halifax are pro-immigration. So I don’t see this having a lot of resonance or ability to attract a large base of people,” Ramos said.

“This kind of message doesn’t have legitimacy in Atlantic Canada and there’s little room for it.”

With files from Sarah Ritchie.