Candidates’ signs are popping up all over the city in anticipation of the Sept. 20 federal election and those placards are built to withstand most weather incidents, but they’re no match for a swift kick from the boot of a vandal.
Todd Doherty was reminded of that grim reality this week while touring his Cariboo-Prince George constituency.
The Conservative incumbent, vying for his third term as a Member of Parliament, spent a good chunk of his day Friday picking up the pieces of his own election signs and that of Cariboo-Prince George NDP candidate Audrey McKinnon after the culprits decided to smash them to the ground.
Vandals have hit several spots in the city where Doherty and his team of volunteers placed signs. He and a volunteer were driving south of Quesnel on Thursday when they spotted some of McKinnon’s signs broken along the highway. They saw more damage on Friday, with his and McKinnon’s signs lying on the ground just west of the city on Highway 16.
“It seems they’re not discriminating, they’re going after Audrey’s and ours ” said Doherty.
“We’ve had 100 or so small signs that have disappeared and the big signs that have been damaged, maybe 10 or 15 that have busted to crap. We’ve seen three or four of Audrey’s signs damaged. On Ospika (Boulevard), our signs were completely demolished last week, they were only up for two days.”
Like Doherty, McKinnon has been logging thousands of kilometres visiting constituents in Williams Lake, Quesnel and Vanderhoof and she’s seen some of collateral damage.
“I didn’t really count how many were destroyed but it looked indiscriminate,” said McKinnon. “Both mine and Todd’s were taken down (on Tyner Boulevard) and one of Todd’s was completely destroyed, it had been run over. Mine just vanished.
“It’s terrible. Our donors are the entire reason we’re able to have signs and all of our volunteer work that went into putting them up, we really value that. This is something that’s expected, and we had a chat with our team (on Friday) and if we can just have some sign guys on duty for this, because it’s possible it will happen again.
“Todd’s team put up one of ours and we put up some of his and we just got it done together without any kind of partisanship or anything like that. We want it to be a fair competition and part of that is making sure people know who they can vote for. People have a choice to make and they should know what their options are and I’m happy to maintain that fairness.”
It is a criminal offence to damage, remove or tamper with an election sign and culprits can be charged with mischief under the Criminal Code. Vandalizing signs is also an offence under the Trespass to Property Act.
With the high price of lumber these days, putting up those signs or replacing those that have been damaged is certainly not cheap. Doherty has seen sign vandalism before in previous campaigns, so what’s been happening lately is nothing new to him.
“Regardless of the political stripe, there are hardworking volunteers and people that support and donate to campaigns and it’s expensive to run a campaign,” said Doherty. “It’s really disappointing.
“I always tell my supporters and I do the same; we put up Audrey’s sign when we saw it down, down south. I urge my supporters, if you see a sign down, even if it’s not ours, do your best to clean up the mess and, if at all possible, put it back up. We stay above the fray and just remember there are people investing time in these candidates and financial resources, which we know are tight. Cooler heads should prevail.”
This is McKinnon’s first election campaign and she's enjoying the opportunity it affords to meet peole and hear their concerns.
“It is a huge riding, lots of ground to cover, but it is awesome getting out to talk to people in all these different communities,” said McKinnon. “I’m seeing a lot of crossover of issues. Even though we think of ourselves as separate in terms of citizens of Prince George or Williams Lake or Vanderhoof, I think we have a lot more in common than we think sometimes.
“As far as the signs go, its frustrating , but I’m reserving my frustration for the issues we need to be focused on - thousands of people dying from preventable deaths from the drug crisis, the fact people in the riding can’t afford to buy a home and the growing poverty we see across the riding.”
Three other candidates have been selected in Cariboo-Prince George, including Garth Frizzell (Liberal), Leigh Hunsinger-Chang (Green Party) and Jeremy Gustafson (People’s Party of Canada).
In Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, Conservative incumbent Bob Zimmer is running against Catharine Kendall (Green Party), Dave Jeffers (Maverick Party), Ryan Dyck (People’s Party of Canada), Cory Longley (NDP) and Amar Alavi (Liberal).
Nominations for the federal election close on Monday.