COLUMN: Electoral weeds are sprouting

MORRISBURG — The electoral weeds are starting to sprout all over SD&G and the country. What are electoral weeds? Election Signs; the colourful 16 by 24 (or larger) signs on metal rods or wooden stakes that pop up at every intersection and entrance to every city, town, village or grouping of more than one house. Frankly, this columnist would prefer to see dandelions on the side of the road or on peoples front lawns, than orange, green, blue or red campaign signs.

These signs are not cheap. In small batches for a municipal campaign, these corrugated plastic goodies can cost between seven and ten dollars each. In larger quantities it still will cost five dollars each. Great work for local sign companies, expensive campaign item to have.

The psychology of a lawn sign has been debated for many years. One can assume that the more signs you see of one candidate or another, the more support a candidate has. That feeling of success can influence some voters, those who want to back the perceived winner. This psychology only applies though when you see how many signs are on individual properties not intersections or other public property.

In modern elections, even small town municipal elections, lawn signs are a necessity for running a good campaign. Not having them shows either a lack of money for the campaign, which means a lack of support, or that you do not have a serious intention of winning.

Regardless of the psychology of election signs, they are a blight. Even the nicest designed sign is still a blight. Large signs with a politician or want-to-be politician faces on it, are not something anyone prefers to see, certainly not this columnist.

Nor does anyone need to see who is supporting whom. Drive down a street in your neighbourhood or rural area and see in a few weeks who your neighbours are supporting. Ask yourself who’s business it is to know how someone is planning on voting? No one. We have had a secret ballot since 1874 for federal elections. By not knowing how your neighbours voted, you also have no one to blame if who you choose to support doesn’t get elected. You will not see any political signs on this writer’s front lawn.

After the campaign is over, signs are left up days, weeks, sometimes months past their expiry date. Last fall when cleaning up campaign signs from this writer’s failed attempt at municipal politics, there were still signs in the ditch from that spring’s provincial election.

Election signs may be a candidate’s best friend, or a bane to the candidate budget. Candidates consider the sign a necessary evil of politicking. To most of us, they are a blight and really should be relegated to the dustbin of political campaign history, much like those inflatable political party bats, or buttons that jab you with a pin when you try to put them on.

Stick to the flyers, at least they can be easily recycled.

Election Tidbits

  • The 2015 campaign will be 78 days in length, as was the 1872 election. Both are the longest campaign periods in Canadian history and only one day shy of  the amount of time that John Turner sat as Prime Minister of Canada. Turner served 79 days before being replaced by Brian Mulroney.
  • This will be the first federal election where a party does not need seats east of Ontario to form a majority government. Argue if that was by design or not, but as the math sits a political party can win a majority with 170 seats. A party does not have to have a single seat in Quebec or the Maritime provinces and can still govern with a majority. Not that ruling from Ottawa without a single seat east of the Ottawa River is a good plan, but it can now happen.
  • The minimum length of an election campaign is currently 36 days according to Elections Canada. The shortest election campaign was just 20 days long, in 1874. This was in the days before mass communication, Television, Radio, the Internet. The telephone wasn’t even invented until later in the same year. How did they run an effective campaign without instant communication? Newspaper, word of mouth, and local supporters. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.


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