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HELSTON: The message sent by election sign vandals

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
October 09, 2015 - 7:38 AM

You could call them a sign of the times: Every election, campaign placards shoot up in droves, and every election, some end up torn, stolen or used as a canvas for budding artists who specialize in moustaches and male genitalia.

Even though it’s an expected hallmark of election season, it still gets to me. It’s the sort of petty, negative behaviour I hate about elections in general — all the gross attack ads and juvenile stabs that add nothing valuable to the conversation. It’s pointless and boring and amounts to little more than the equivalent of toilet talk on the election playground. 

Numerous election signs have been trashed across the North Okanagan, and one campaign manager says it’s the worst she’s ever seen. Signs have been spray painted, purposefully driven over, and some left looking like they’ve gone through a lawnmower.

It’s illegal, yes, and can result in fines and even jail time if the culprits are caught, but I’m not going to paint this as some dramatic political scandal, as some 'sign war threatens outcome of election' type of thing. It’s more of a nuisance really, especially for hardworking campaign volunteers who have to drive around reinstalling signs and canvassing supporters for more donations (large signs cost a couple hundred dollars a piece.)

Remember, vandals, if you damage a sign to get at Stephen Harper or Justin Trudeau, they aren’t the ones that are going to be cleaning it up — they won’t care or even know about it. It’s your community members, your neighbours, who will be out there on the streets, trying to actually do something useful in this election. 

I find it particularly troublesome when signs on private property get vandalized, as was the unfortunate case in Vernon this week. What message is being sent by this behaviour? That we should be afraid to advertise who we think deserves to represent our riding? That we should be even more guarded about revealing our political affiliations than we already are? Please, no. 

I don’t know what these vandals think they’re accomplishing, but I think I might know where they’re coming from. (This is of course assuming the vandal is politically motivated, though I believe many just want to wreck things and draw penises.) This has been a long election. Emotions are high. People are tired and angry and uncertain about the future. Some are looking for an outlet, a means of expression. And while I’m all for people getting engaged and showing passion for politics, vandalizing someone’s property isn’t a show of passion, but of spite. 

If you really want to send a political message, there are so many other ways rather than defacing someone’s sign. Sing it on the street corner, put it on a t-shirt, or tattoo it to your forehead.

Of course the best way of all is the way one Vernon man suggested, after finding his election sign vandalized: ‘If you want to scribble something, go to the ballot box on voting day.’

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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