After anti-Trudeau billboards spark outrage, ad company says it will re-evaluate vetting process

Anti-Trudeau billboards that called for the jailing of the prime minister were displayed across Alberta over the past week. (Submitted/CBC)

Billboards that called for the jailing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were displayed in prominent areas across Alberta over the past week, sparking backlash online.

The billboards were purchased by Alberta Fights Back, a third-party advertiser registered with Elections Alberta. 

Peter Downing, the leader of Wexit, also runs Alberta Fights Back.

He said he hadn't heard of anyone getting offended due to the billboards until media began to call him this weekend.

"The overwhelming response we got was positive. People loved the billboards," Downing said. "People loved the fact that finally there was political representation that was standing up for them."

This isn't the first time Alberta Fights Back has run billboards that some have found offensive.

One billboard, also purchased through Signpatico, asked onlookers to consider whether Trudeau was leading the country toward civil war. It also featured suggestions that Trudeau was censoring speech and "normalizing pedophilia."

Downing said the recent advertisements were a one-week campaign that has now concluded.

Eight billboards with the anti-Trudeau message ran across Alberta, Downing said — two near Airdrie, five in Edmonton and one in Calgary.

"[We'll purchase more billboards] on an issue by issue basis. We just received official party eligibility at the federal level, so we'll do more advertising, just like any political party," Downing said.

Elections Canada granted eligibility to the party Friday, which will allow Wexit to get its party name on the ballot and issue tax receipts for political contributions.

'We're going to review our vetting process'

James McDonnell, president of Signpatico, said the anti-Trudeau billboards weren't the first purchased with the company by Alberta Fights Back.

"Our company's position has always been that as long as it meets ad standards, that we are non-partisan. We'd run any campaign as long as the ad standards were met," McDonnell said. "But in light of this, I think it's given us an opportunity to reflect."

McDonnell said that were Alberta Fights Back to seek to run an ad with his company in the future, there would have to be some "readjustment of the message."

"Without getting into specifics, we would re-evaluate any political campaign … we're going to review our vetting process," he said. "We've had some challenges in the past, but not nearly to the severity of this one.

"We do fundamentally stand by freedom of expression, as per the charter. But we're not intending on inciting perceptions of hate speech or offensive ads."