Here’s no secret: I hate election signs.
Every time we have an election, our public spaces, streets and neighbourhoods are littered with these mini-billboards, which are intended to be eye-catching (read: loud & ugly) and tell us nothing about the candidates whatsoever. Speaking from experience as a campaign finance worker, these signs are a waste of time and money, and campaigns sometimes blow up to half of their budgets on them. That doesn’t give me much hope for all of the current campaigns vowing to end waste at City Hall.
It’s not so much that I hate the signs for being signs, it’s the behaviour of the campaigns that erect them. Toronto has some of the most strict election sign rules anywhere, yet candidates from all sides have chosen to disregard these laws, and put up signs wherever they want. Coupled with a city that can’t enforce the law, this means our beautiful city is covered in a layer of tacky technicolour trash, and at one of the prettiest times of the year. The Toronto Star reported on a crescent in Rob Ford’s north Etobicoke stronghold, whose residents awoke to find the candidate’s “Respect For Taxpayers” signs standing on their lawns without their permission, less than 8 hours after candidates were allowed to start erecting signs. Of course, Ford’s bumper stickers have been pasted all over mail boxes, bus shelters and other public property for months.
What this reveals about the campaigns is a serious lack of respect for voters. Candidates jockey for a quick burst of visibility by assaulting us with illegal signs, knowing the city doesn’t have the resources to remove them all, and even if they do, the campaigns can afford a few thousand dollars in fines. What does this demonstrate about a candidate’s ethics, and how should we expect them to govern if they are elected?
One candidate (who happens to be in my ward) is doing something about it. Neil Sinclair’s campaign has foregone traditional lawn signs in favour of “e-lawn signs“. For every order of Sinclair’s electronic campaign materials, his campaign will make a donation to Trees Ontario, a charity based in Toronto. Although I don’t know much else about Sinclair’s campaign, that sort of progressive thinking is more than enough for me to take a second look.
At the far opposite end of environmental awareness, I came home after a Thanksgiving weekend away to find another candidate for my ward had managed to enter my secure apartment building over the weekend and stuff his flyers under my door, which one of the cats promptly urinated on. Thanks for that, Brad Feraday. Yes, the law gives you a right as a candidate to have done so, and you couldn’t have known that Roxy has mental issues and loose bowels, but it was still a dick move. How about I come down to your campaign office and dump my recycling in your lobby?
Apologies to Five Man Electrical Band.
External link to a summary of Toronto’s Election Sign Bylaw posted on Markham’s city website, for some reason.
Some external illegal sign links: