2 min

Under fire

City Councillor Joe Mihevc says the Toronto Sun is behind hundreds of telephone calls trashing a gay safe sex advertising campaign on the city’s buses and subways.

“It was in an editorial where they encouraged people to phone in to oppose these ads,” says Mihevc, who sits on the Toronto Transit Commission’s governing board. “The heat’s coming down on us.”

About 400 complaints have been received, along with six compliments.

The AIDS Committee Of Toronto ads feature the phrase, “Welcome to condom country. HIV is on the rise in Toronto. Ride Safely.” They also show a series of cowboys touching or preparing to touch.

The series of three has been running for about a week, and is scheduled to stay up through the summer. (The ads are featured on 1,715 subway walls and bus shelters, streetcars, buses and subway cars: ACT is paying $15,300 for the space).

Mihevc also sits on the TTC advertising sub-committee (he says the other two members, councillors Sherene Shaw and Mario Silva, also approved the ACT ads), and chairs the municipal board of health. He says there’s as yet no push to dump the ACT ads…. but there’s no guarantee about the future. “I think there’s a strong commitment because of the message, it’s a good campaign, there’s wonderful public health content. I don’t want it messed with.”

The number of Toronto men infected with HIV is going up.

The Sun editorial, “Double Standards At The TTC,” ran on Wed, Jun 20 and asked, “Why is the Toronto Transit Commission discriminating against heterosexual men?”

This because an ad for a men’s erectile dysfunction clinic was banned. The clinic’s ads feature a photograph of a nude woman’s torso with the slogan: “When you see this, you feel: A) Nothing B) Nothing C) Nothing D) Still Damn Nothing.”

But the complainers ó and the Sun ó aren’t asking for the men’s clinic ads to be accepted. They’re demanding the ACT ads be dumped. Mihevc says: “That’s why, I would assert, it’s about homophobia, disguised as an inconsistency or double-standard argument. It’s about homophobia, disguised as consistency.”

The Sun editorial concludes by encouraging readers to nix the ads: “Mihevc says his committee will review the Condom Country ads if it receives public complaints. If they offend you, complain to the TTC’s customer service office at (416) 393-3030. And let’s see how objective the TTC really is.”

People can send their congratulations about the ACT ads to that same number.

ACT’s director of community development, John Maxwell, says he’s received a dozen complaints himself. “Every complaint was from a Toronto Sun reader,” he says.

But he says there’s no talk of taking the ads down.