OTTAWA – The Conservative Party of Canada has -- for the second time in around 24 hours -- pulled and then reposted a modified version of their attack ad that spoofs the iconic Heritage Minutes.
Their latest re-edit comes after the organization that produces the real Heritage Minutes, Historica Canada, said they were losing some of their donors.
The federal political party found itself in hot water over the weekend for a video posted to social media that the party says was meant to be a parody of the iconic clips, taking aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government over ethics scandals.
"Some prime ministers were good, some great, but never had one been fined for breaking the law while in office. Until one day..." it begins.
On Sunday, Historica Canada threatened legal action, and called for the video to be removed and for a public apology for being dragged in to a partisan fight.
Anthony Wilson-Smith, CEO of Historica Canada, told CTV News on Monday that the organization is losing donors as the result of the ad. Wilson-Smith said that these are donors who have traditionally donated small amounts are discontinuing their donations, some saying they didn't realize that Historica Canada hadn't sanctioned the Conservative's video.
"We're not talking about significant amounts, but we became immediately concerned about the fallout effect, the continuing effect if this went on," Wilson-Smith said. Citing current concerns about fake news and partisanship, he said "more than ever we feel our reputation for being a fact-based, non-partisan organization is crucial to what we do."
He spoke with Conservative Party officials on Monday where he made clear that the party needed to make things right by removing any reference to Heritage Minutes.
"We did not intend to draw negative attention to Historica Canada. They do great work profiling Canadian history and we wish to maintain our positive relationship with the organization," the party said in a series of tweets on Monday.
On Sunday the Conservatives first modified and re-posted the video with a message emphasizing that it is a parody and "not associated with Historica Canada in any way."
That version has now been deleted. What has been posted in its place still includes the same parody disclaimer, but no longer includes the Heritage Minute logo.
"We have removed all Heritage Minute branding from the video we posted over the weekend. Our intention was simply to use a recognizable and often-parodied segment to highlight Justin Trudeau's many ethical breaches. We will continue to use our digital platforms to hold Liberals to account for their entitlements and abuse of taxpayer dollars," the party said.
The Liberal Party issued a statement Sunday accusing Scheer and the Conservatives of "doubling down on the same Harper-style negative attacks that Canadians rejected in 2015."
"Look at that and show me the difference between the Conservatives of today and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Tell me where is the difference," Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday.
Also responding, Treasury Board President Jane Philpott -- who is featured in the video for her use of a car service owned by a campaign volunteer -- said it’s "really important that when political parties use the public means for advertisement that it’s done in a responsible way."
A spokesperson for the Conservative caucus told CTV News that MPs would not be commenting on the video, saying they stand by the party's statement.
Asked about it during a media availability, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus said he didn't have anything to say and would leave it to his party.
Like politicizing Mr. Dressup
Generally, pre-campaign advertising is meant to set the agenda and paint the picture of your opponents that you want people to have, political marketing strategist and brand consultant Clive Veroni told CTV News. He thinks in this case, "the messaging has gotten away," from what the Conservatives were trying to achieve.
Veroni said that because the conversation is now about the appropriateness of the video and not what the message in the video was, the Conservatives have missed the mark with its attempt at a parody.
"These Heritage Minute ads are something that are iconically Canadian and so when you take something like that… and you start to use it for personal political messaging, I think you are skating close to the edge," Veroni said. "It would be like taking Mr. Dressup and using him in a political ad."
Strategic communications consultant and principal at Earnscliffe Greg Weston called the video "amateur." He said that a video that was supposed to make Trudeau look bad ended up making the Conservatives and Leader Andrew Scheer look "petty."
He said that if this kind of video is any indication, the next election and the months leading up to it are shaping up to be nasty, and that this ad will look "gentle" by comparison come the time Canadians take to the polls.
With files from CTV News' Annie Bergeron-Oliver
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