Stung by criticism from New York's Bravest, a Saskatchewan provincial cabinet minister tendered a tepid apology yesterday after a graphic 9/11 image was used to publicize a pig-roast fundraiser in her riding.
"If somebody is offended, that was not what we were hoping or planning for and if that's the case, then obviously we're sorry for that." said Environment Minister Nancy Heppner, in response to a New York Fire Department spokesman who said the fundraising poster was "in bad taste."
The flyer was distributed door-to-door in Ms. Heppner's Martensville riding, just north of Saskatoon, to advertise the "2nd Annual Spring Fundraising Dinner" - an event featuring Chief Richard Picciotto, the highest-ranking firefighter pulled from the rubble of New York's World Trade Center.
The invitation is superimposed over a New York Times photo of the WTC's south tower taken moments after hijackers flew United Airlines Flight 175 into its upper floors.
A Saskatchewan Party logo sits at the upper left.
In New York City, where media outlets restrict the use of images that might bring back nightmares of an attack that killed more than 2,700 people in the city's heart, the poster came under sharp criticism.
"The FDNY hopes that no one ever forgets what happened on September 11th," said FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer. "However, we do think that the use of images of the attacks for political or monetary gain, like the image on this poster, is in bad taste."
Ms. Heppner said members of her constituency association designed the poster and asked for her approval before they began distributing it.
"I saw it before it went out and because this is [Mr. Picciotto's]story, I didn't see a problem with it at the time," she said. "I've seen Mr. Picciotto's presentation before and he uses a similar image. The thinking was that if he's using this as a part of his presentation it would be okay."
In Martensville, the event's organizers were unapologetic.
"I don't have a problem with it," said Rick Gorelitza, whose name and number appear on the invitation. "It was discussed for quite some time. There's always someone out there willing to kick up dust over nothing."
Reached at his New York home, Mr. Picciotto said he knew nothing about the invitations, but agreed 9/11 images should be used sensitively.
Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP seized on the poster soon after it started appearing on political blogs yesterday.
"Using that image to do political fundraising is tasteless and lacks judgment," said provincial NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter. "It lacks common decency and humanity."
Mr. Lingenfelter said the issue warranted a response from Premier Brad Wall "because it's not only the image of his party that's hurt here, this is the kind of thing that reflects poorly on the whole province, and it should be dealt with."
Mr. Wall's office referred media calls on the matter to Ms. Heppner.