In what Conservative party campaign managers see as a troubling trend, campaign posters for their federal election candidates in mid- and north Island ridings have been defaced, destroyed or taken, while those of their federal election counterparts remain untouched.
“I put up one of the signs at my house and they dumped it in Wood Creek,” said Jamie Wood of Campbell River, who organized a sign-placing drive for North Island-Powell River candidate Laura Smith along the Old Island Highway through Area D south of town. “I found out later it was happening in Nanaimo and all the way up the highway to Campbell River. Pretty well consistently the Conservatives’ signs are being slaughtered the whole way.”
A volunteer answering the phones at the Nanimo headquarters of Conservative candidate Mark MacDonald confirmed Wood’s claim.
“We’ve definitely had a large amount of signs defaced, spray-painted with profanities, broken or taken,” she said. “We’re finding crews are just burning up their time repairing, replacing and picking up signs that have been damaged.”
Nobody has been caught in the act, which can carry criminal penalties ranging from vandalism to mischief to theft. And members of the Conservative campaigns have offered varying theories as to who might be behind it.
But they are agreed on one point.
“The NDP and Green signs right next to ours at the intersections aren’t being touched,” said Glen McPherson, MacDonald’s Nanaimo campaign manager. “It’s hard to believe it’s weather-related. Or that it’s a coincidence.”
In Campbell River, Wood allowed that one or two of the smaller signs might have blown over in last weekend’s storm. But he said the damage began showing up almost immediately after Smith’s signs began going up a week earlier. Particularly targeted are the larger, heavier signs, which have been cut out of their sturdy two-by-four frames.
“In some cases they took a knife and slashed them off,” said Wood. “We secure those on there with screws and washers; they’re not blowing away.”
At the corner of South Island Highway and Jubilee Parkway, a support stands at the side of the road, with the screws still holding a strip of a Smith sign that was cut away. Just around the corner at the same intersection, a sign touting Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff stands untouched. Wood believes dirt-bikers who commonly ride near the beach may have caused some of the trouble. He said several of the smaller signs that were flattened at the side of the road bore a single tread mark running over them.
“It’s criminal mischief and criminal theft if you take them and knock them down,” he said. “If it’s kids, they don’t want to mess up the rest of their life by getting a record for something like this.”
Section 325 of the Canada Elections Act states that, “No person shall prevent or impair the transmission to the public of an election advertising message without the consent of a person with authority to authorize its transmission.”
McPherson promised there would be no retaliation against the other candidates’ signs, at least not from any volunteers working from MacDonald’s office.
“I’ve put out the word to all the volunteers in our campaign, ‘Please don’t touch anyone’s signs,” he said. “And they wouldn’t, because they’re nice people.”
Wood said he’s seen this sort of activity in the past, and has noted that it usually flares up early in the campaign before settling down as the election draws closer. The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 19.
“Hopefully nobody’s gonna take down the other guys’ signs,” he said. “Or any more of ours.”