I was parked across from city hall when two disgruntled residents marched a Vision Vancouver sign uphill on a Friday afternoon. They dumped it at city hall, after they came home from work to find an unwanted sign with the mayor’s face on it in their front yard.
There were many reports of Vision Vancouver sticking its signs where they weren’t welcome. Something similar to that is going on in Richmond, where Liberal candidate Lawrence Woo has been accused of planting signs without residents’ permission.
During this fall’s federal election, the sign wars are taking a more sinister turn. Sign wars happen every election, but the “Heave Steve” sentiment is palpable and, at times, verging on irrational and illegal.
This is not a defense of the Conservative Party or Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As a member of the media, I am understandably disappointed with the governing party’s irrational level of secrecy and wasteful spin spending. But this post is about freedom of speech.
Vancouver Quadra Conservative candidate Blair Lockhart’s campaign has filed three complaints to the Vancouver Police Department and also complained to Elections Canada. Some $2,000 worth of signs, including ones that were on Lockhart’s property, have been defaced or destroyed.
The campaign turned over video evidence to police that could lead to identification of the culprits.
Other Conservatives had better luck finding the perpetrators.
Conservatives are not the only ones targeted. A sign for North Vancouver Green star candidate Claire Martin still stands in Lynn Valley, despite the graffiti still visible. Liberal and NDP signs have also been knocked down.
Citizens in Canada have a right to run for office as a member of a political party or as an independent. Everyone has the right to make their own election sign and place it on their own property or carry it through public commons. Some municipalities allow election signs on public land; others, like City of Vancouver, don’t. It is freedom of speech at its most basic.
Generally, no one is allowed to prevent or impair the display of an election sign. In fact, Section 325 of the Elections Act makes it illegal to do so, except if it’s a hazard to public safety. The maximum penalties upon conviction are a $5,000 fine, six months in jail or both.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Ontario… A Liberal candidate in Brampton complained to police and Elections Canada after capturing video of Conservative volunteers damaging opponents’ signs. The volunteers were fired from the campaign of Bal Gosal, the Conservative sport minister.
Have a problem with a candidate and his or her sign? Send him or her a sign on Oct. 19 by voting for one of his or her opponents. The X you mark in the circle might be the one that seals their political fate, and they will never know you did it. That is the democratic way.