We’re barely a month into an election year and the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is beefing with the people who produce Heritage Minutes.
It’s going to be a long one, ain’t it?
For those of you not familiar with Heritage Minutes, they’re a series of short Canadian TV spots which attempt to teach important moments in Canadian history. Starting in 1991, 86 of the short little commercials have aired. We have a recreation of the deadly Halifax explosion, a woman getting brain surgery and smelling toast (actually about groundbreaking advances by a Montreal neurosurgeon), and this one about us kicking this angry gun-toting American out of the Yukon. The ending of Heritage Minutes has become a de facto (and very niche) meme in Canada.
OK, so now that we got that brief tidbit of Canadiana out of the way, this dumb little thing got going when Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party, posted an attack ad in the form of a Heritage Minute on social media Saturday night. The ad is pretty much what you would expect. Running over some stock “inspirational” music, it talks about Trudeau being fined by the ethics commissioner and the scandals of the current Liberal government. It’s pretty cut and dry (emphasis on the dry) but offers one little bit of levity by ending on that botched handshake between Trudeau, Barack Obama, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto.
The tweet by Scheer—who, by all accounts, seems to have a social media strategy that is a confusing coalescence of a boomer staring at a computer screen for the first time and a straight up shitposter—was up for less than a day before Historica Canada, the independent organization who produces the Minutes, responded. In a statement released on social media, the company said they welcome “parodies” but not ones that are “used for partisan political purposes.”
Scheer’s social media team decided that it probably wasn’t in their best interest to get into a flame war with a beloved Canadian institution. So in order to appease Historica Canada, but also not let their beloved meming go to waste, the Tories temporarily deleted the video before uploading the video with a short disclaimer at the start of the video which describes the video as “parody” and says, “while it depicts actual events, it is not associated with Historica Canada in any way."
That wasn’t enough though. The CEO of Historica Canada told the CBC that he wants the ad taken down, a full apology, and that the group is even looking into legal action. The big worry, he explains, is that the video will be seen by some who believe it’s legit and it may jeopardize their funding model—it essentially erodes the group’s non-partisan image—and Historica CEO Anthony Wilson-Smith said that the group would be upset if this action came from either party. In a statement posted to social media on Sunday, the group said they have received funding from both Liberal governments and Conservatives and “both have "respected our independence."
"To that end, we ask that the Conservative Party remove a very partisan mock Minute airing on social media platforms,” reads the post. “While the Minute has a disclaimer that makes clear it was not produced by Historica Canada, it is counter to the spirit of the Minutes—and the traditional support for them provided by the Conservative Party.
“Our reputation for non-partisan, fact-based programs is key to our support. The production in question is opposite of that."
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