Many blogs and columns are busy dissecting and interpreting our election results from last Monday. I am still too tired to wade into that realm right now after weeks locked into a campaign office (a few weeks in Australia should remedy that starting this Saturday). The last couple days have been exhausting in packing an office while making sure that countless signs and related materials are picked up and recycled/disposed of and I can’t help but be frustrated by the waste of both materials and time in placing campaign signs on public spaces.
Campaign signs serve an important purpose. They help build familiarity with the name of a candidate and their party. On private lawns campaign signs allow people to openly demonstrate their support for a particular candidate to their neighbors. Private placements can have some impact as many people can be more inclined to join the wave if they see a large trend of neighbors supporting a particular candidate. The impact of signs on public space is negligible.
The bottom line is that in a campaign no candidate can afford to let their competitor gain an edge in any manner even if the advantage is very slim. If only one candidate refuses to participate in the placement of public signs they will look weaker as their competitors flood spaces with their signs. I got many calls from supporters who were concerned about certain public spaces being under represented by our party in signs and of course that led to a compulsion to add yet more signs to the mess.
While I am indeed libertarian leaning and generally am not favorable of increasing any regulations, I have to say that I would like municipalities to step in and place an outright ban on placing campaign signs on public space for all elections. We simply cant rely on campaigns to choose not to place these ugly and generally ineffective signs on their own. If one campaign begins the placement, others will follow. If it is legislated, no one campaign is given an advantage or disadvantage.
Signs can and still would be utilized on private lawns. Large signs can be used as well of course. It is a person’s property, let them display whatever they want on it. Wouldn’t it be nice if our parks and public spaces were immune from that visual pollution during campaigns though?
Some of the major intersections were nothing less than stomach turning as a virtual vomit of colors assailed the eyes while one drove looking at blur of signs from a variety of parties. I am pretty confident that most people simply stop seeing the signs after a few weeks.
It would be good for all campaigns if they were freed from the perceived obligation to jam public spaces with mountains of signs. Those signs are expensive. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on public signs by campaigns in Calgary alone in the last election? How many volunteer hours were spent on the placement and maintenance of these signs? The public signs are magnets for vandalism and every large campaign has a full time person designated to simply keeping those signs standing. Those dollars and those hours all could have been more effectively used in other aspects of the campaigns. I would prefer to have a volunteer on the phones or door-knocking full time rather than wasting time fixing and placing public signs. I would rather those dollars be spent on another lit drop or even better beer on election night. Both expenditures would be of more value.
This is not a great thunderous electoral reform issue such as recall or even fixed election dates. This is an issue of colossal waste happening that can be very easily fixed. I think it is time to start the process of getting legislation into place. I seriously doubt many people would miss the signs on public space in future elections.