The non-profit behind the well-known "Heritage Minutes" is calling on the Conservatives to apologize for a party-produced parody video that was posted, deleted, then posted again over the weekend.
Tory leader Andrew Scheer first shared a 60-second spot spoofing the "Heritage Minutes" format on his Facebook and Twitter pages Saturday afternoon. It was also retweeted by the Conservatives' Twitter page.
"Canada had never seen a government break so many federal ethics and conflict of interest laws before," a voiceover intones in the video. "Justin Trudeau had made history. Unfortunately."
The ad features news-making events that target Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, stating the prime minister broke the law while in office, but not detailing the instance, and then listing other specific ethics inquiries made against members of the party including "failing to disclose an entire French villa they owned" and "blowing $3700 of taxpayers money." The claims are punctuated by clips of Trudeau stammering, and digitally treated to appear vintage.
It concludes with familiar "Heritage Minutes" branding and formatting conventions, including its catchphrase, "A part of our heritage" and the "Heritage Minutes" ending title.
Historica Canada on Sunday denounced the use of "phrases and images long associated with the real Minutes" and asked the party to "immediately remove" the video from all platforms.
It went on to say that spoofs of the "Heritage Minutes" format for "partisan political purposes" are not welcome.
"We are a non-partisan charitable organization that works with governments at various levels and supporters of all political stripes," the statement reads.
The video was briefly removed from Scheer's social media pages on Sunday afternoon. A Conservative Party spokesman told the Canadian Press that the ad "was obviously intended as parody,'' and that they intended to post another version of the video.
Later on Sunday, the Conservative Party re-posted the video with a disclaimer to differentiate it from a Historica Canada production.
"We wouldn't want it mistaken for a real production by Historica Canada, which typically showcase prouder moments in Canadian history," the party said in the Facebook post.
The group then issued another statement, saying that even with a disclaimer the ad runs "counter to the spirit" of "Heritage Minutes."
UPDATE - Feb. 3, 2019: Yet another version of the video was posted to the Conservative Party's social media pages. This version has been stripped all "Heritage Minutes" formatting conventions.
"We did not intend to draw negative attention to Historica Canada," an accompanying tweet reads. "They do great work profiling Canadian history and we wish to maintain our positive relationship with the organization."
We have removed all Heritage Minute branding from the video we posted over the weekend. Our intention was simply to use a recognizable and often-parodied segment to highlight Justin Trudeau's many ethical breaches. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/ihtW8PNi4i— Conservative Party (@CPC_HQ) February 4, 2019
'It came as a complete surprise'
Anthony Wilson-Smith, president and CEO of Historica Canada since 2012, was "shocked" to see the initial video on Scheer's Twitter page. He said, as far as he knew, no party had used the "Heritage Minutes" format for political gain before.
"It came as a complete surprise," Wilson-Smith told HuffPost Canada. "People rely on us for a fact-based, non-partisan approach. We can't allow that image to be abused."
Wilson called for the Conservatives to apologize following the initial removal, and maintained his stance with the revised video.
"It doesn't thrill me but it's better than what existed before," Wilson-Smith told HuffPost. "They seem to acknowledge that they put our reputation at risk."
"I still want an apology," Wilson-Smith added. He had yet to hear from the Conservative Party on Sunday afternoon.
People rely on us for a fact-based, non-partisan approach. We can't allow that image to be abused.Anthony Wilson-Smith, Historica Canada
Since the release of the first 13 "Heritage Minutes" in 1991, the format has certainly proved popular with spoofers. Everyone from This Hour Has 22 Minutes to The Rick Mercer Report to the Royal Canadian Air Farce has co-opted the format for a cackle or two.
The Conservative Party's addition to that list could be a hint of things to come. Speaking at a Liberal fundraiser in Toronto on Oct. 2, 2018, Trudeau speculated that the upcoming federal election would be "the most divisive and negative and nasty political campaign in Canada's history." He also promised his team would not "engage in personal attacks."
Scheer's Conservatives, of course, insist the shoe is on the other foot.
"Justin Trudeau's Liberals have done more name-calling and fear-mongering than anyone," Scheer tweeted on Jan. 31. "Trudeau should stop accusing others of it until he looks in the mirror."
With a file from The Canadian Press
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