Emotion amongst voters is clearly running high as several Lacombe-Ponoka candidates have experienced election sign vandalism.
Sign vandalism started not long after they were installed March 24, starting with NDP candidate Doug Hart’s signs in Blackfalds less than three days later.
The signs were unscrewed from their frames and stolen. In the days and weeks since, his signs have been cut up, knocked over, tagged with lewd symbols and more.
“We had signs burned in Alix last night. We’ve had our signs vandalized. I’ve been doing this for 35 years and never have I seen the degree of vandalism and disrespect for other parties’ signs,” said Hart Wednesday night, speaking to media after the Lacombe Chamber of Commerce’s All Candidates Forum at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
“I’d like to think there is more civility and respect for other people’s views and policies than what I’ve seen exhibited in this campaign. It’s disappointing.”
On his Facebook page, however, he twice blamed conservative supporters as the culprits, including most recently on April 4th following the keying of an NDP supporter’s vehicle in Red Deer.
“Nowhere have I seen ‘Alberta strong and free’ leadership or candidates condemn or decry this vandalism and repugnant behavior,” he wrote. “Complicity is condoning. More evidence that the leader and his posse will stoop to any depths to win. Even if they have no moral imperative, can they not observe the ‘rule of law’ to which they so frequently refer?”
His signs haven’t been the only ones hit locally. Alberta Party candidate Myles Chykerda’s signs were also hit with graffiti, and thrown onto the road, while incumbent MLA and UCP candidate Ron Orr has also had his signs tossed and knocked over.
Vandalism has also happened across the province. Rachel Notley signs in Fort Saskatchewan were spray painted with swastikas, and NDP candidate for Whitecourt Ste Anne Oneil Carlier’s signs received similar treatment.
Perhaps the most notable example of election sign vandalism came March 21, when the Alberta Party’s candidate for Calgary-Edgemont, Joanne Gui, had one of her signs scrawled with various racist remarks the day after it was put up. Fellow Alberta Party candidate for Edmonton Castle-Downs Moe Rahall had someone write “Islam” across his portrait on signs.
F-bombs in front of UCP leader Jason Kenney’s names have written across bus benches in Calgary, according to a Global News Calgary report, and in Olds, a home with pro-UCP signs featuring Nathan Cooper’s name was egged and “I love NDP,” and “Taxation is theft,” was spray painted in orange across his windows and yard.
All three major party leaders, contrary to Hart’s April 4 post, however, have spoke against sign vandalism. Alberta Liberal Party leader David Khan also retweeted a tweet condemning racist remarks made towards Gui.
Orr, however, said he doesn’t believe sign vandalism is reflective of the average Albertan.
“My first instinct isn’t to assume someone’s being malicious – I honestly don’t know it’s not just the wind that blew them over so I’m not going to go ranting and raving about that,” he said Wednesday.
“I think most Albertans are pretty good about signs and there are maybe a few bad apples out there.”
Those who vandalize election signs – if caught – can face charges up to $5,000 or up to six months in prison as per the RCMP – who are reminding all that tampering with signs can lead to charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.
“We have received numerous reports of candidate signs being vandalized,” said RCMP Cst. Mike Hibbs. “In some cases, these acts of vandalism also include other types of property damages and even hate speech. We are investigating reports of these incidents and will lay charges accordingly.”
Anyone who witnesses the vandalism or theft of an election sign, or information on such incidents is asked to contact local police, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or www.P3tips.com.