Vandals have been actively destroying campaign signs across the region since the federal election was called on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, according to those with local campaigns.
Paul Proderick, a campaign volunteer for Liberal Candidate and former Member of Parliament, Mike Bossio, is in charge of Bassio’s signs for the Amherstview area. He says the problem is ongoing. “We seem to be on a never-ending cycle of replacing and fixing. I fixed two yesterday and I drove by to go to town today and I saw that it was done again,” he relays.
Proderick says there is more to putting signs up than most people realize.
“When you put signs out, you think about things like lines of sight, making sure you’re not blocking people turning corners and stuff, and you’re trying to keep them back from the road, but visible. And you try to keep them off people’s private property,” he says.
“And what happens is sometimes you put them in spots, you think ‘there’s no way anybody’s gonna do anything to this one,’ but people go out of their way to do damage. One has been run over by ATVs, like, no question, they leave tracks.” Proderick says he has replaced the sign multiple times in that spot.
Finally putting it directly against a large tree to prevent it from being run over, he says, “I fixed it so I figured they couldn’t run it over. Somebody took it down overnight last night.”
In another example of clear intentional vandalism, he says, “I put one on a spot on Bath Road and County Road 6, which is inaccessible and nobody walks by there. And yet, one morning we came and somebody defaced it with a marker. So, you know that’s not a bunch of kids who are walking by with magic markers at two in the morning, type of thing. That’s the one that bugged me more than anything because somebody had to have a black marker and be really out in the middle of nowhere and stop in the middle of the night.”
Proderick says that, as he is travelling around, he does not see that damage is being done equally to all campaigns signs, however, he notes that not many candidates have signage out yet.
“There’s only one other candidate that really has signs and I haven’t seen any of their signs knocked over. Our signs were out really early and theirs are usually pretty close to ours. I’m not saying they’re not out there, but I haven’t seen them,” he says.
While they did not grant Kingstonist an interview, reached for comment, Conservative candidate Shelby Kramp-Neuman’s campaign first responded, that they “probably don’t have too much to add,” but would discuss the matter with the team and respond.
While it is not clear who on the team responded, the next day Kingstonist was sent the following statement: “Over the last few days, a number of Conservative party campaign signs have been vandalized throughout the Riding. We understand that other candidates may be having a similar issue. We would like to remind people that if you are not happy with a particular candidate you can show your displeasure at the ballot box. We just ask that you leave the signs alone.”
According to Nick Drakich, President/Chief Executive Officer of the Hastings — Lennox and Addington People’s Party of Canada Association, “The James Babcock Campaign does not have any campaign signs, yet. Our electoral district association (EDA) filed registration papers with Elections Canada over two months ago. However, they did not register our EDA until today. Therefore, we could not raise any funds for our candidate’s campaign before the election. However, our candidate was registered a few days ago; so, we can raise funds through our registered candidate’s campaign account. We have signs on order with a local printer and should have some by Friday. The delay by Elections Canada has been far more damaging than the vandalism of signs.”
Drakich says it appears that the Green and New Democratic parties have been subjected to the same delays. Neither party’s candidate had signage erected in the riding at time of publication.
“So far, damaged signs have only been on public property. Nobody’s called our campaign that I’m aware of to say theirs was stolen off their lawn or whatever, and all the ones that have been damaged are on public right of ways, but not in high visibility spots,” says Proderick.
“The ones that haven’t been damaged aren’t the ones that are near, you know, like a 24-hour gas station, or near residents’ homes. The ones that are vandalized are isolated where, if you’re the person who wants to damage them on purpose, you’re not going to see anybody looking out their window or something like that.”
Proderick says that Liberal Campaign signs have been similarly destroyed in other parts of the riding and troublingly, “It’s not anything new, but it just seems a little more prevalent this year than in the past.”
Indeed, Cayman Heath of Coe Hill says several of the signs he put up for the Liberal campaign were stolen with only the wire frames left behind.
“It devastated me,” he says, “I am a veteran who has been deeply depressed and suffering from PTSD and high anxiety for several years now. I am also an Anglican Priest, retired because of a head-on collision and, as a result, left with an acquired brain injury. This was my first attempt at volunteering and it took everything I had to put those signs up, only to then be walking through the ditches to try and find them. All that hard work. All that energy — for people to care so little.”
“I’d like to think it’s random,” says Proderick, “But you keep plugging away, and I try to look at it this way: there are always people that are going to be the destroyers and wreckers instead of the builders.”
“I ran for council here last time and I put up signs to and nothing was damaged, none of the candidate’s [signs were], but that’s local. It seems to be just when you get into these provincial and federal elections, where people are either one or the other,” Proderick expresses. “It’s sad because, you know, we’re all one, Right?”
While Proderick finds it sad, in fact, it is also illegal. People found damaging or removing signs can face charges of mischief under the Criminal Code. It’s also an offence under the Trespass to Property Act to go onto private property without permission. Removing or damaging a campaign sign can also lead to a theft charge being laid against you and a fine up to $400, according to the Canadian Criminal Code. And, of course, you can face jail time if you’re a repeat offender or have a criminal record.
To make a complaint or allegation of wrongdoing about election signs displayed during a federal election, residents can contact the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
Residents can also contact their local police on their non-emergency line. Those who wish to remain anonymous can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit a tip online at www.p3tips.com, where they may be eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $2,000.