Candidates in the Prince Albert riding are calling for calm and mutual respect after reports of campaign sign vandalism occurred over the weekend.
On Saturday, a People’s Party of Canada (PPC) volunteer noticed that six Liberal Party campaign signs on the western part of Marquis Rd. had been “pulled down and thrown aside.” The volunteer, who was scouting potential locations to place PPC signs, also said Liberal signs were knocked over near Victoria Hospital, with one reportedly being thrown into a nearby grove of trees.
According to a post on Facebook, the PPC volunteer put the signs back up himself, even though it “felt odd putting up a sign for another party’s campaign.”
Liberal candidate Estelle Hjertaas thanked the PPC volunteer for putting the signs back up, but said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
On Sept. 16, someone shot the Liberal campaign sign on her own front lawn with a paintball gun. She also said some campaign volunteers have faced verbal abuse as they go door-to-door handing out pamphlets. The most recent case occurred while campaigning in Nipawin.
“That’s not fun for them, right” she said during an interview on Monday. “Props to him (the volunteer) for keeping on going. Everyone was really nice to me in Nipawin yesterday (Sunday) but it’s horrible for the volunteers. They’re out doing this because they believe in something and they definitely don’t deserve for anyone to treat them badly. They’re out politely saying hi to people, so it’s frustrating.”
Hjertaas added that she’s made it clear to her campaign that any unprofessional behavior is inappropriate, and believes other candidates are doing the same.
“I don’t think any of the candidates are endorsing anyone behaving in that fashion,” she said.
Hjertaas also had one man tell his wife to “shoot her” while she was going door-to-door, but doesn’t believe the incident meets the legal test to be considered a threat.
“I don’t think that he meant it seriously,” Hjertaas wrote on Facebook. “But it did convey a message.”
All candidates were quick to condemn the behavior when contacted on Monday. Representatives from Conservative candidate and incumbent MP Randy Hoback responded to the incident online, pointing out that such vandalism was against the law, and calling for the individuals responsible to be prosecuted.
“Our campaign team knows how frustrating this can be, as we ourselves have lost many signs in previous campaigns,” wrote Ralph Boychuk, Hoback’s campaign manager. “During the last campaign, for example, a Conservative sign was set on fire. We have lost a couple signs this campaign so far due to damage as well. These actions do not align with Randy’s values, nor those of his team.”
“Team Hoback is a loyal group of volunteers who do not damage property and would never subject themselves or participate in these types of actions,” the statement continued. “We hope for a fair and smooth campaign.”
Hoback’s communications representative, Dorothy Kawula, reiterated those statements when contacted.
“An election is a respectful time and it’s important that candidates get their message out there,” she said. “It is illegal and disrespectful to be doing anything to damage (campaign signs) or move them or touch them at all.”
Kawula added that they hadn’t had any problems so far this year with sign vandalism, although they have had to replace a few that were damaged by high winds. She said replacing signs due to inclement weather is “par for the course.”
PPC candidate Kelly Day got married over the weekend, so she was unaware of the controversy until Monday. Day said the vandalism was concerning, especially since the federal campaign is getting so heated.
Her campaign hasn’t put any signs up yet after having problems with their supplier, so they haven’t faced any vandalism. However, Day said some PPC candidates in other parts of the country have had signs vandalize, and some PPC supporters have faced verbal abuse when going door-to-door or just displaying party signs or shirts out in public. The response in Prince Albert, however, has been respectful and polite.
“Everyone has reported to me that it’s been mostly pleasant,” Day explained. “You get the odd person that’s upset about the vote-split. Generally speaking, a lot of people either haven’t heard of us or are interested in what we have to say. It’s been pretty pleasant thus far, but we’re ramping up a lot for the month of October, so we’ll see.”
Day added that the closest the Prince Albert PPC came to receiving threats was a Facebook post about throwing milkshakes at leader Max Bernier, who spoke to a small gathering of supporters at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club on July 31.
NDP candidate Harmony Johnson-Harder has just started campaigning and putting up signs after winning her party’s nomination on Sept. 14. Like Day, Johnson-Harder said it’s been mostly positive in Prince Albert since they started.
“We haven’t had any problems with our signs being knocked over,” she said. “I’ve had some great conversations with people. People have been super receptive—lots of friendly exchanges. I’ve had a good experience so far.”
Threats and sign vandalism hasn’t been limited to Prince Albert this election. A week ago, a Green Party candidate in the North Saskatchewan riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River reported being threatened while going door-to-door. Global News has also reported that a Green Party campaign volunteer was injured while canvassing in the Ontario riding of London North Centre on Sunday. Police are currently investigating the latter incident.