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Sign wars run rampant in city election

City seeing an increase in election sign vandalism, say candidates
Sign damage seems to be worse in Ward 1 than elsewhere in the city. This photo shows signs of five of six Ward 1 candidates; also running is Dan Gibson.

Election sign vandals seem to be more active this time around, agree candidates with election experience.

“I think it’s worse than before and I think it’s a shame,” commented Ward 6 candidate Dominique O’Rourke, who ran successfully in 2018. “At a time when we need less polarization, the trend is really disturbing.

“I think there is a meanness in some wards … some targeting, to be sure.”

Ward 5 candidate Cathy Downer, who has more election experience than others in the city, agrees there’s been an increase in sign damage during the 2022 campaign, though she and O’Rourke feel their wards haven’t been particularly bad for it.

“I don’t ever think it’s the other candidates, because I think they all know what the value and cost of signs are, but sometimes supporters or people that work on those campaigns may,” she said. “You really have to watch your volunteers.”

This past weekend, numerous candidates turned to social media to express their disappointment with sign damage – something several feel is targeted toward their campaign.

Many of the issues raised hail from Ward 1. 

Saturday, council candidate Chidi Nwene tweeted that 90 per cent of his signs were damaged or taken, while signs from some other candidates appeared untouched.

“I just want to say that (the) Ward 1 political landscape is very toxic and very divisive, dangerous and very shameful,” Nwene wrote. “To be honest with you, I did not expect this kind of nonsense to be happening.”

Several fellow Ward 1 candidates have commented on social media about sign vandalism during the campaign, though it’s not limited to that area of the city. Numerous candidates elsewhere have made similar comments.

There were no calls to police about election sign damage between Friday and Monday morning, Guelph Police spokesperson Scott Tracey said, noting incidents could have been reported online.

“Certainly we would want to remind the public that anyone damaging or removing election signs, as with any other private property, could face criminal charges of theft or mischief,” he said via email, urging anyone with information about sign damage or theft to report it to police.

The cost of election signs vary depending on size, materials and colours used, as well as the quantity printed. Then there’s the time and energy it takes to put them up, followed by regular maintenance, not only in response to vandalism, but more likely weather-related factors.

“It is very challenging, especially for a new councillor candidate,” O’Rourke said, noting signs are the best way for political newcomers to build name recognition and drive potential voters to their websites for information. “It’s more than just grabbing a sign and tossing it in the green space because people think it’s hilarious, it’s actually quite draining on the council candidate’s team.

“I’m not sure people realize the financial cost and the resource cost.”

City officials have also received "a few" complaints about bylaw violations.

"We have removed some signs and notified the candidates of our actions," Scott Green, the city's manager of corporate and community safety, said via email. " We have not had any charges at this time."

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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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