Conservative flyer on refugees resurfaces on social media

A professor at the University of Saskatchewan says he's not surprised a controversial flyer has resurfaced on social media during the federal campaign.

Twitter and Facebook can be 'dangerous for all parties' during campaigns

A flyer sent out in 2012 by MP Kelly Block. (CBC)

A professor at the University of Saskatchewan says he's not surprised a controversial flyer has resurfaced on social media.

In 2012, Conservative MP Kelly Block mailed a flyer to her constituents titled: "Ending Unfair Benefits for Refugee Claimants." The flyer went on, stating, "New Arrivals to Canada have received dental and vision care paid for by your tax dollars - not anymore."

The flyer attracted controversy and sparked a protest at Block's office in Saskatoon three years ago.

Now with this month's renewed interest in refugee issues during the campaign, the flyer story has re-emerged on social media.

"Things that are controversial in 2012 have a way of resurfacing in 2015 during the campaign," said Charles Smith, professor of Political Studies at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan. "It's reinforcing the narrative that what they were saying now isn't what they were saying in the past, and I think it's dangerous for all parties."

Smith said while this is a good example of social media becoming an issue in political campaigns, it's not the only one. Last month, Liberal candidate Ala Buzreba stepped down after offensive tweets were brought to light. 

"35 years ago, these things would have been on a written flyer, and would end up in a library if we're lucky," he said. "Today, they are instantly scanned and put on the internet."

While Smith said the internet has served to democratize politics and make it easier for the public to have its voice heard, it will likely mean very tight, managed campaigns in the future.

"We've seen with the NDP silencing candidates who have controversial opinions on the Middle East," he said. "These things don't go away. They can be instantly communicated."

MP Kelly Block's office said the candidate couldn't do an interview today. Her office directed reporters to recent statements made by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on refugees.


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