EDMONTON - The opportunity to "win" a Russian wife from a local radio station has irked Alberta's employment and immigration minister.
Thomas Lukaszuk pulled all of his ministries advertising from The Bear 100.3 FM Tuesday, after coming across a station contest to "win a wife" from Russia.
"As a father of two daughters, the whole idea of winning a wife doesn't bode with me well at all," said Lukaszuk.
"I believe that it would be inappropriate to be spending taxpayers money on that radio station and advertising government programs while they're running such promotions."
Lukaszuk used Twitter to blast the station's contest Tuesday, saying "Bear's radio ad offering a 'prize' Russian wife is deplorable on many fronts! Its time for apology, Bear."
On the station's website, the contest ad features a woman clad in a white bridal gown, wrapped in a red bow and ribbon. Her face is blurred, and the ad says "You are invited to win a wife."
The contest details start by saying, "The Bear is giving away a wife!" then tells potential entrants, "if you're interested in potential holy matrimony with a hot foreign chick, fill it (entry form) out to the best of your abilities."
The contest winner will receive 13 nights paid accommodations, return air fare and $500 cash to spend.
Rob Vavrek, The Bear's brand director, defended the contest.
"Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding what the actual contest entails," he said.
"(It's) the opportunity to contact and meet each other in the hopes of developing a serious relationship — a concept similar to many other such contests held on reality-TV shows over the past few years around the world," said Vavrek, likening the contest to the Bachelor and Bachelorette TV shows.
Vavrek also said the contest is sourced through a "serious and renowned" mail-order-bride company named Volga Girl.
The company's website, last updated on August 7 of this year, says the operation is American-based, and has offices in the U.S., Canada and Russia.
The company says they merely act as a go-between for western men and russian women, and touts it's track record of facilitating "hundreds" of engagements since opening in 1999.
Some websites say a mail-order-bride can cost up to $15,000.
Vavrek claims the contest would match the winner with a "consenting" adult russian woman, but Lukaszuk doubts that.
"Often many of them (women) are driven into a position of desperation by prevailing economic conditions or by criminal elements that is often involved in these schemes. So the position of free choice differers between what you and I would consider free choice and what happens in other parts of the world," said Lukaszuk.
In his role as immigration minister, Lukaszuk said he's seen the "tragic" effects of mail-to-order brides.
"I think it's a phenomena that as elected democratic governments of the west, we should be curtailing in any way we can and not encouraging it," he said.
So far 64 entrants have filed online application forms that are available for public voting on the Bear's website.
Contestants must answer questions like "What do you have to offer a smoking hot foreign girl?" and "describe your perfect wife."
Although Lukaszuk could not say how much money his ministry spends on Bear advertising, he vows to no longer pay for air-time on the station.
"Whether it's $1 or $1 million, the number doesn't make a difference. It's a statement against what they're doing," he said.
Lukaszuk said despite his stance on the "poor taste" ads, he will not write a complaint letter to the Radio and Television Telecommunications Corporation because he is not a "proponent of censorship," but encourages listeners to "make their own decision whether they find it offensive."
The contest is sponsored by the Oil City Roadhouse; however, management said they have "no comment" about Lukaszuk's decision.