I have worked on many an election campaign. One common element to almost all campaigns is deliberate defacement and destruction of campaign signs. Signs cost money. Political campaigns usually suffer from limited financial resources, which makes replacing signs problematic. Not to mention that in Canada there are spending limits – and that signs have been destroyed doesn’t matter to the auditors. If you overspend you can go to jail.
When I ran local campaigns I dealt with sign vandalism in two ways. The first was to call the other campaign managers, tell them I knew what was going on, and suggest that they might want to have a chat with their volunteers who were being perhaps a touch over-zealous. That was pretty effective. They would always deny that their campaigns had been involved – but the problem would be solved.
Even more effective was the press release I issued about abnormal weather patterns in the area. The local papers printed it verbatim.
Apparently, I said, there were micro-bursts of gale force winds sweeping through the area blowing down election signs. These winds were so localized that only signs belonging to one candidate were affected. The public (and the other parties) got the point. The vandalism stopped. For a while anyway.
So I was both amused and pleased to hear that Ryan Leef took matters into his own hands this week when confronted with the problem of sign vandalism. Reports as to exactly what happened are conflicting, but apparently he and his campaign manager caught the culprit red-handed. There has been a lot of social media whining about his citizen’s arrest, but you won’t get that from me. Destroying or defacing a campaign sign is a federal offence, punishable by fines of jail time. The vandal’s excuses for her actions sounded kind of hollow to me, to put it mildly. Of course those who oppose Leef’s party see her as some sort of folk hero, which is to be expected.
With a federal election underway I hope that all candidates, volunteers, campaign workers and citizens in general remember that there are limits to what you can do in a political campaign and that if you break the law you will be caught and punished.