OTTAWA — A conservative advocacy group is paying people to dress up as bananas to make its bid to oust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from office more appealing to voters.
Canada Proud, an anti-Liberal group known for its viral provincial campaigns that benefited Ontario Premier Doug Ford, held a fruit-themed protest near Parliament Hill on Tuesday featuring a giant inflatable banana.
“Yeah, Canada Proud is funding this,” said the group’s founder Jeff Ballingall, who was standing in the shade a few metres away from the inflatable banana.
A callout distributed at the end of May for the “tongue-in-cheek political PR stunt” promised $20 per hour to wear a T-shirt for a six-hour shift. Those willing to slip on a banana costume get an extra $2.50 per hour. Participants who drive are eligible for an extra $20 for parking with proof of a receipt.
The anti-Trudeau banana protest is the group’s first offline effort.
“We want to reach people. It’s a good visual, I think. We want to showcase that we’re more than an online movement,” Ballingall said. The campaign is a way to talk about Trudeau’s “pretty crazy record,” he added, and “his different slip-ups.”
Slip-ups. Bananas. Get it?
For examples of the prime minister’s “pretty crazy record” and “slip-ups,” Ballingall pointed to Trudeau’s broken balanced-budget promise, Canada’s relations with China, and how some First Nations communities still lack safe drinking water.
Asked which federal leader Canada Proud would like to see form government come October, the former Stephen Harper-era Conservative staffer said “our job right now is to just get Trudeau out of power.”
Canada Proud is the national spinoff of Ontario Proud, the advocacy group that provided unapologetic support for Ford’s Progressive Conservatives last year. It did so by drawing attention to Liberal campaign blunders with highly-partisan memes.
Ballingall pointed to similar tactics used to mock Trudeau’s stumbling answer about switching from drinking water from disposable plastic bottles to boxed cartons. “That went viral for us last week, we had a lot of fun with that.”
Its reach has seemingly brought in a flush of cash for both Ontario Proud and Canada Proud. The self-described “grassroots movement” was buoyed by nearly $460,000 in corporate donations during the Ontario election campaign, according to CBC News.
He suggested people are also willing to support Canada Proud with donations. Fundraising efforts in lead up to the election campaign have been “great” and that the group has raised $10,000 in the last two days, he said.
Canada Proud may have to abide by new rules governing third-party activities if it continues its real-world activities offline beyond June 30. Under new legislation, brought forward by the Liberal government, third-party groups can publish free organic posts online but as soon as they spend more than $500 on their activities, they must report production costs, advertising, and their sources of revenues.
Watch: Facebook explains new rules for posting election ads in Canada
Other third-party groups, such as Engage Canada, have also become more active as the federal election looms. The group, supported by a coalition of unions and veteran political strategists, is running negative ads targeting Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. It recently made an expensive ad buy during Games 5 and 6 of the NBA Finals.
But Ballingall isn’t interested in traditional campaign strategies.
“I think the old-style politics of using big TV ads isn’t the best use of money. I think, now, politics is won and lost on social media — that’s our bread and butter,” he said.
One banana protester said she wasn’t allowed to speak with media. All requests should be directed to Ballingall, she said.
Another person in a banana suit handing stickers and bookmarks to passersby called himself an “independent contractor.” He said he found the job posting online.
“Gotta pay the bills,” he said, holding a handful of politically-charged banana-pun stickers and bookmarks.
The banana protest near Parliament Hill was only a one-day event. The giant inflatable banana splits Ottawa Tuesday evening, and is expected to pop up in Toronto on Wednesday.