Former Surrey mayor and star Conservative candidate Dianne Watts is offering no apologies for an official party flyer that boasts, "We will fight jihadist terrorists at home and abroad."
The campaign literature also features a fake newspaper headline ("ISIS URGES JIHADISTS TO ATTACK CANADIANS/ "YOU WILL NOT FEEL SECURE IN YOUR BEDROOMS"), as well as Watts' photo and name on the back.
"It's absolutely fear-mongering," said Liberal candidate Judy Higginbotham, who is running against Watts in the B.C. riding. "It doesn't address the issues that South Surrey-White Rock have top of mind, and it certainly was meant to provoke and totally inappropriate."
Angry residents also wrote to local newspapers condemning the ad.
"Shame on you, Dianne Watts, for allowing your picture to adorn the flip side of the flyer that arrived in my mailbox yesterday," according to Karen Peplow in a letter published in the Peace Arch News. "Is this your platform, to convince me that I should not feel secure in my bedroom?"
"The campaign leaflet I received this past week from Dianne Watts caused me to look under my bed for terrorists. All I found was dust, but I was unable to determine if the dust had been thoroughly screened and whether or not a terrorist mite still lingered there," wrote David Klassen to the Surrey Leader. "Honestly, this is the most absurd piece of political literature I’ve ever seen."
On Tuesday, the popular three-term mayor of B.C.'s second-biggest city appeared to set herself apart from the official party material.
“I think that people deliver messages in different ways and they have different styles. I have not used that style," she told CKNW. "The national campaign has used that and some people will align with that and some people will align with the messaging that I have.”
Higginbotham, who worked with Watts on Surrey city council, told The Huffington Post B.C. that she feels the message is out of character for the Tory candidate.
However, Watts defended the party line in a statement Wednesday, saying, "Terrorism is a real and serious issue. The violence that has been inflicted on the families – the children and the people of Syria – Iraq cannot go unanswered. I decided to run for the Conservative Party because they are the only party that has taken a stand against this type of violence and terrorism."
She added, "There was no intention to fear monger. The underlying issue is to deal with the root causes."
The popular politician is rumoured to be a strong contender for cabinet if she and the Tories win in the Oct. 19 federal election.
The line highlighted in the Tory flyer — "You will not feel secure in your bedrooms" — comes from an ISIS audio recording last year, threatening non-believers, reported CBC News.
Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Western economic diversification minister at the time, created the hashtag #SecureBedroomSelfie in response. She posted a photo of herself in her bedroom, along with the message, "I'm feeling pretty secure right now - b/c of hard won freedoms."
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