Bus Ad Draws Fire

Joseph Chin, Mississauga News, Nov. 11, 2010

The election is over, but a campaign advertisement that appeared on Mississauga Transit buses–and was still running as late as last week–is firing up residents.

The outsized ad, placed prominently on the back of the vehicles and touting mayoralty candidate Paul Fromm, read: “Fight Gridlock: Freeze Immigration.”

Fromm.jpeg

Fromm is no stranger to controversy. A former Peel District School Board teacher, he was fired in 1997 after he ignored warnings from administrators to stop associating with known racists and white supremacists. The B’Nai Brith and other organizations had complained about his conduct at a series of right-wing political rallies.

Peter Votsch was so offended by Fromm’s sign, he filed a formal complaint with Mississauga Transit.

“It attempts to link immigration to gridlock, topics which have no apparent relation. This ad appears to be an attack on immigration and immigrant communities, bizarrely blaming immigrants to Canada/Mississauga for heavy traffic on our roads. It is a racist ad that attempts to create anti-immigrant sentiment during our municipal election,” he wrote in his complaint.

Votsch wanted to know why such a “blatantly anti-immigrant message” would appear on public transit. He also wants measures taken to prevent such ads from appearing in all public spaces.

Mohammed Khan, a PhD candidate in the department of political science at McMaster University, also denounced the ad.

“Apart from their divisive message, they are also misleading in the way they are worded. To the casual observer they imply as though the message is from the mayor,” he said.

Fromm insists he was not targeting any particular sector.

“Definitely, I oppose all immigration at this time,” he said. “With 8.4 per cent unemployment, Canada should accept no more immigration until we get Canadians back to work. My ads attacked no community. The ads refer to future intake and cast no aspersions on people who are presently here.”

Contacted by The News, Mississauga Transit director Geoff Marinoff said the City of Mississauga is having the ad removed as the contracted period is over.

“CBS Outdoor is the City’s on-board bus and shelter advertising contractor. The terms of the contract require CBS Outdoor to review the advertising creative for an ad both against the City of Mississauga’s advertising policy and the national Canadian Code of Advertising Standards,” said Marinoff.

He noted that if CBS Outdoor views an ad as questionable, it refers it back to City staff.

“The ad was reviewed by staff and placed on buses . . . as it met both the policy criteria and the advertising standards,” he said.

Fromm’s message did not appear to resonate with voters: He finished in ninth place, with 917 votes.

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