Federal Liberal South Surrey-White Rock candidate Judy Higginbotham has gone on the attack against election material delivered door-to-door last week by Conservative Dianne Watts’ campaign.
On the other side of a card bearing Watts’ name and picture, a photo-montage of headlines quotes an alleged Isis jihadist as saying “You Will Not Feel Secure In Your Bedrooms,” while contrasting it with quotes from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau expressing their lack of support for anti-ISIS combat missions.
The campaign leaflet’s message, alongside the Conservative party logo, is “We will fight jihadist terrorists at home and abroad.”
In a media release issued late Monday afternoon, Higginbotham slammed the campaign literature.
“Creating this kind of terrorist fear-mongering in our riding goes far beyond being inappropriate,” she said, calling on Watts to “stiffen her backbone” and indicate to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper that such a message to Canadians is not acceptable.
“Is fighting terrorists in South Surrey-White Rock really (Watts’) top priority?” the release questioned.
Watts did not respond to Peace Arch News’ request for comment by press time Tuesday. The paper has also received letters from readers taking umbrage at the leaflet’s message.
Higginbotham told PAN the leaflet – which she believes was distributed by the Conservatives’ head office – implies other parties are supportive of terrorism.
“It’s one thing the Conservatives are good at – initiating trash ads, nasty ads,” she said. “To suggest that any MP would bring in, or allow jihadist terrorists into the country is nonsense.”
Higginbotham said Canada needs to respond to the current refugee crisis with humanitarian aid rather than fear tactics.
“To spread this out across Canada is trying to provoke people to fear refugees and immigrants.”
Higginbotham said she has heard from many residents.
“It was certainly not pleasantly received. Given some of the reaction, we think she would stand up and say this is not what she would endorse.”
Higginbotham – a former Surrey councillor – said she was personally “floored… taken aback” when she first saw the leaflet. She said she finds the material – quite apart from not resonating with this riding – out of character for Watts, a former Surrey mayor.
“I’m terribly surprised – I know Dianne Watts well and this is astounding. I think she’s being muzzled by the Conservative Party. Trying to create fear isn’t in keeping with what we know of Dianne.”
Contacted by PAN, NDP candidate Pixie Hobby said her campaign office also received visits and calls from offended residents.
“I was surprised by it – it caters to the politics of fear,” Hobby said.
Like Higginbotham, Hobby expressed doubt the message originated with Watts.
“You wonder whether this would be a harbinger of things to come. Especially after we had not-too-great representation locally from (outgoing Conservative MP) Russ Hiebert, it doesn’t provide much comfort,” Hobby said. “It made me wonder whether Dianne Watts would be representing the people (or) the Harper agenda.”