The CEO of Historica Canada says the organization is losing faithful donors after the Conservative Party released a partisan attack ad mimicking a Heritage Minute.
Anthony Wilson-Smith said some traditional donors have e-mailed or called the organization to say that they are cancelling their monthly contribution as a result of the attack ad first posted late Saturday.
On Sunday, the Conservative Party replaced the ad that spoofed a Heritage Minute with a similar video that includes a disclaimer saying the video is a parody and, that while it depicts actual events, it is not associated with Historica Canada.
Using a similar style and format to actual Minutes, the Conservative Party’s video criticizes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for ethics breaches, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s failure to disclose his ownership of a villa in France and cabinet minister Jane Philpott’s use of tax dollars to pay for a limousine service. The federal ethics commissioner cleared Ms. Philpott of any wrongdoing in the incident.
But Mr. Wilson-Smith said it’s not enough to pull the ad and replace it with a disclaimer.
“We’ve heard from some traditional donors and followers today, some people already have discontinued [donations] to us because they believe we are responsible for this,” said Mr. Wilson-Smith.
Mr. Wilson-Smith said the charitable organization believes that the new ad, in its existing form, runs “directly counter to the fact-based non-partisan nature of the Minutes themselves.”
Historica Canada said from the outset after the first ad was published that it would hurt its reputation for being non-partisan and for creating fact-based educational products, Ms. Wilson-Smith says.
“All of that is put at risk by this because many people don’t understand who exactly produces Minutes, don’t understand what constitutes a Minute.”
He said it’s problematic the group is losing individual donors but it could also threaten corporate donors because companies are adamant the Minutes be non-partisan.
“We don’t believe for a second that the Conservatives intended harm to either the Minutes or Historica Canada but once you start slinging mud, the end result is it sticks to bystanders as well, and we’re definitely suffering collateral damage.”
Mr. Wilson-Smith said his organization is looking for an apology from the Conservative Party and for the ad to be pulled.
In a statement, the Conservative Party said it would remove all Heritage Minute branding.
“Our intention was simply to use a recognizable and often-parodied segment to highlight Justin Trudeau’s many ethical breaches,” the party said, adding: "However, 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.”