The Conservative party has removed all Heritage Minute branding from an online video released over the weekend that took aim at the Trudeau government for a handful of ethics breaches.
In a tweet published by the Conservative party’s official account on Monday, the party said the intention was merely to use a “recognizable and often-parodied segment” to attack the Liberal government’s ethics record, recounting times cabinet ministers have been found in breach of federal rules as if they were landmark events.
The Conservative’s use of the Heritage Minute format for partisan political purposes drew the ire of the Historica Foundation, which has been making the one-minute films for nearly 30 years.
“We did not intend to draw negative attention to Historica Canada,” the Conservative party tweeted.
“They do great work profiling Canadian history and we wish to maintain our positive relationship with the organization.”
Official Heritage Minute films usually depict memorable Canadian milestones, like the invention of basketball, or showcase contributions of important Canadian figures, such as Lucy Maud Montgomery for authoring the Anne of Green Gables series while also battling depression and sexism.
Anthony Wilson-Smith, CEO of the Historica Foundation, said Sunday on Twitter that parodies are OK, but the organization didn’t want to be tied to any “political mud slinging.” He suggested the organization was considering legal action if the Conservatives didn’t remove all material linking the political spoof to real Heritage Minutes.
The Conservatives first put up a new version of the ad on Sunday with a long disclosure saying it wasn’t a real Heritage Minute following initial push back. After continued concerns, the party finally removed all Heritage Minute branding from the ad.
Once the party did that, the Historica Foundation said in a statement that it considered the matter “closed to our satisfaction.”
Liberal cabinet ministers were quick to use the opportunity to scold the Conservatives in hallways of Parliament Hill on Monday.
“Look at that and show me the difference between the Conservatives of today and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives?” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told reporters.
Treasury Board President Jane Philpott said she believes the episode highlights the need for political parties to take a responsible approach to advertising.
“Certainly that’s something that we seek to do in our party and I would certainly hope that other parties would do the same.”
This is the second time the Conservative party has pulled an online ad after facing backlash. In July, the party pulled an attack ad from its Twitter that depicted a black asylum seeker crossing irregularly into Canada, blaming a 2017 tweet from Trudeau for causing a “migrant crisis.”
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press