NEWS February 29th, 2016

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Anti-Wynne billboard gets mixed reaction from passersby

Sign alleging lies, corruption posted near premier's constituency office at Eglinton and Laird

If you’ve noticed a billboard ad on Laird Drive just south of Eglinton Avenue in Leaside asking for signatures on a petition to fire Premier Kathleen Wynne, you’re not alone.

The attention-grabbing ad pictures Wynne and proclaims “Stop the corruption! Stop the lies!” before asking people to visit a website and sign a petition to have her resign.

Several passersby gave their opinions of the ad, which was taken out by The Rebel Media — a company founded by outspoken right-wing commentator Ezra Levant following the closing down of Sun News Network a year ago. According to the website, the ad went up at the beginning of February and the groups plans to put up another billboard elsewhere soon.

One woman said she thinks it’s an example of what politics has become recently.

“It’s dirty,” she said. “It’s not nice, but that’s what they do.”

Others took issue with the ad’s vagueness.

“It says ‘stop corruption’ but doesn’t specify how she’s corrupt, and it says ‘stop lies’ but doesn’t specify what she lied about,” one man said. “It only implies.”

That man, however, still believed the ad should remain because of freedom of speech laws — a popular opinion, held by those who liked the ad and those who didn’t.

One woman who liked the ad said she was “not a fan of Wynne” and believes the premier is trying “to live a socialist life for herself and her friends,” while a man who felt the sign was harsh said “if they want people to sign a petition they could use a better choice of words.”

In a letter to the Town Crier, Thursfield Crescent resident Desre Kramer calls the sign “deeply offensive” to the community.”

“I do believe that this sort of negative public discourse has no role in Canadian politics,” Kramer writes. “I would like this poster taken down.”

The ad’s placement is suspect, being not only in the Don Valley West riding Wynne represents, but also less than 200 metres from her constituency office on Eglinton Avenue East. Staff at that office declined to comment and Wynne’s office at Queen’s Park did not return a call for comment.

Wynne has launched a lawsuit for alleged defamatory statements before. In 2014, she filed suit against the Ontario PC Party, its then-leader Tim Hudak and MPP Lisa MacLeod during the provincial election for comments made regarding what the defendants claimed to be Wynne’s role in the gas plant scandal. The case settled out of court in July last year, with a joint statement issued by all involved parties.

Levant also has a history of being sued for libel, two cases in which the plaintiffs were awarded damages and several times resulting in apologies and retractions.

While it’s not known if this billboard reaches the threshold of defamation, at least one passerby lauded the placement of the ad in Wynne’s backyard.

“It should stay,” he said. “For competitive spirit, you know?”

— with files from Alexei Malakhov