Political signs are a regular feature of electoral campaigns, but they’re proving to be an issue for one Brandon-Souris federal candidate.
NDP candidate Whitney Hodgins told the Sun Tuesday there have been numerous instances of her signs being moved, disappearing or being vandalized.
A couple of weeks ago in Cypress River, Hodgins was told by a local that all of her signs in the community had disappeared overnight.
Recently in Brandon, signs have been moved from along boulevards into school zones and from public property onto private property.
"Actually just today in Deloraine, we had an issue where I planted a sign last night on RM property ... (and) it was taken and put on private property," she said. "I wake up today to all kinds of messages saying ‘this person’s really annoyed, stop putting signs on their lawn.’"
That sign, she suspects, is one that was present along a public roadway in the RM of Deloraine-Winchester on Monday evening and had disappeared by the next day.
According to Hodgins, she was shown a meme someone posted on social media captioned "this is what happens when Jagmeet Whitney Hodgins place a sign on my lawn, I’m here at the range right now" and the sign was perforated with holes.
"That’s a pretty good sign they were riddled with bullet holes," Hodgins said. "Quite frankly, it’s upsetting simply because, first of all, the person isn’t aware that I never put a sign on their lawn, it’s somebody else doing it ... To see it get to that extreme, it’s personally upsetting, but it gives you a sense (there’s a lack of safety) on the campaign trail."
If a sign from her campaign ends up where it’s not supposed to be, Hodgins encourages property owners to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call her at 431-720-1122, and someone will come and remove it.
Elections Canada says on its website that private residential property owners have the right to control who enters their property or anything placed on it, including elections signs. While owners have a right to remove an unwanted sign, the organization states that the property owner may want to reach out to a candidate or party to have an unwanted sign removed.
The Canada Elections Act states that no one is allowed to interfere with the transmission of election advertising, including signs, during an election. However, government entities can remove signs that violate federal, provincial or municipal laws after notifying a campaign, remove a sign without notice if it is a safety hazard or have electoral officials remove signs from public property near a polling place.
While Elections Canada does not have the jurisdiction to deal with reports of destroyed, stolen or removed signs, sign owners and candidates can send a complaint to the commissioner of Canada Elections or notify police as it is considered the destruction of private property.
As a result of the incidents, Hodgins said she would be more cautious during the last week of the campaign to preserve the safety of herself and her volunteers.
"That is a very concerning incident to have happen and one that should not be taken lightly at all," she said. "But it hasn’t stopped me from campaigning, and I think it’s important for people to know that the campaign hasn’t stopped just because of one person."
Other candidates in the riding have also experienced sign vandalism during this campaign.
Liberal candidate Linda Branconnier’s campaign manager, Will Goodon, told the Sun their signs went up only a few days ago, but he had to spend an evening putting about a dozen that had been knocked over back up.
"Unfortunately we’ve also lost signs from vandalism or just being stolen," Conservative candidate Larry Maguire said in an email. "It’s very discouraging as our volunteers put in long hours putting them up and maintaining them. This happens every election to all the parties and it needs to stop immediately."
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