Can we all agree to work towards ending campaign signs on public spaces?

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.

Laugh a little people.

Well this morning began in a pretty typical way. I was walking around in the bush checking on some survey while peripherally checking twitter in case some issue demanded my attention and input. I noted a couple tweets regarding the Wildrose Campaign bus from some people. I knew that the bus was being unveiled today so didn’t think much of it. I just assumed that the usual suspects were adding their critique on the shade of the color or something. Still tweets kept popping up on the bus so I knew something was up. I paused and had a look at a picture of the bus and saw what is pictured below:

  Yes. In an epic failure of graphic design Danielle Smith’s torso was pictured on top of a pair of bus wheels which caused some rather unintentional imagery.

  As an unabashed partisan supporter of, founding member of and multiple term member of the provincial executive of  the Wildrose Party, how was I to respond to a twelve foot depiction of our leader like this?

 As a socially liberal man married to a strong political woman (aka @Jaanikka) how was I supposed to respond to this image?

Well I will tell you: I laughed my head off!

I am not talking the obligatory LOL that I give on twitter when somebody says something moderately amusing. This was a deep, rich and real outright laughing fit in the middle of the trees. I then jumped in on some of the growing laughs and jokes about the whole thing on Twitter.

Face it people. The picture is hilarious and there is nothing wrong with laughing about it or making good natured jokes about it.

I understand that elections and politics are serious business by their very nature and importance. That is why distractions and laughs like this are indeed so important. I take politics very seriously. I have put thousands of hours and dollars into politics over the years. Rest assured I don’t take the issues and policies lightly. I still however can laugh at myself and the party I support when the situation calls for it.

 In past election campaigns my fondest memories are not of the knockout punch delivered in a church basement all candidates forum. I remember the fun/funny things. I remember a car chase with a black Saab driven by a supporter of an opposing candidate while I drove a mobile billboard though the suburbs of Calgary (it was a low speed chase). I remember asking for Mr. Korea at a door due to poor walking papers only to be told by a young lady in perfect English with excellent sarcasm “We are Korean but nobody named Korea lives here.” (awkward but I still got a sign placement). I remember 3am stakeouts to try and catch a serial sign vandal (and we did catch him).

 Campaigning and campaigns can be fun. They have to be. It is tough and important work being on a campaign. A person can wear themselves physically and emotionally out very quickly if they will not let themselves relax and have some fun at times. To do so a person has to lighten up and be able to laugh at themselves first and foremost.

 I see that some people immediately labelled all of the banter about the bus as being sexist. I say with all sincerity: Kiss my butt. It is not. Geeze. People can make jokes about Obama without being racist and people can make jokes about female politicians without being sexist. I despise people trying to shut down humour and discussion by claiming sexism or racism when it is not really there.

I have seen many who keep saying that this would not have gone viral like this had it been a male candidate. I say BS people. Below is a picture that somebody tweeted. It is funny too. Now, had that bus had a male political candidate pictured, I assure you that the banter and the jokes would have taken off and been just the same.



 Look, sexism does exist and women in politics get terribly abused unfairly in public life. There is a double standard when it comes to critique of their appearances, their attitudes and even their voices. We saw it in a recent repugnant headline about the Alberta election in the Huffington Post, we saw it when people commented on Clark’s cleavage in BC and we saw it in the utter character assassination of Palin. I hope that we can grow out of it as many great women are indeed staying out of politics due to not wanting to endure that scrutiny and abuse.

 The above being said, that has nothing to do with the current Wildrose bus affair. There are some individuals who went too far in their comments such as Progressive Conservative campaign manager Piotr Pilarski tweeting about tassels and such but that is to be expected by nuts like him. He would have been just as offensive on something else had this issue not popped up. The majority of the banter was good natured and it was fun.

 Danielle responded excellently. I can only guess that she was not immediately amused by the error. It is expensive and certainly distracts from the campaign.

 All the same, Danielle put out a tweet saying:

 “Glad to see everyone is so interested in our bus. 😉 Guess we’ll have to make a couple of changes huh?”

Nothing more needs to be said. This is a passing issue. Some embarrassment was had as well as some fun. Hopefully some lessons were learned and there is likely now a better system of checking on things being implemented by the campaign team.

 Some people have complained about all of the joking being childish. Well nobody knows how to relax and have some fun better than a child do they?

Pull the stick out of your arses and laugh a little people. Be a child for a moment. It is going to be a long campaign.


Peeling the bandaid off ever so slowly.

In reviewing the events and behaviour in Alberta politics in the last few weeks, it becomes clear that the need for fixed election dates is more acute than ever.

For those who watch twitter, the traditional hashtag #ableg has become almost completely dysfunctional as partisan supporters of all stripes from literally cabinet ministers to anonymous accounts engage in an ever-heightening  vitriolic battle to win the hearts of the one or two undecided people who may follow that hashtag.

 In the news, editorials are becoming more harsh and investigative journos have been engaged in an ongoing game of “gotcha” as increased general political scrutiny exposes slips and scandals of varying degrees of severity and importance.

 Alison Redford broke her promise for fixed election dates and instead substituted this “fixed election period” which has led us to this politically toxic mess. For weeks now we have been in an election that is not officially an election. Frustrated opposition members watch as a Progressive Conservative campaign bus tours the province, tax funded radio ads for the government of Alberta fill the airwaves and taxpayers fund fancy election planning retreats in Jasper for PC candidates while non-PC parties can’t even place a lawn sign yet.

 Doors are being knocked as they have been for months but the early contacts are becoming stale as an easily distracted populace forgets a past candidates visit.

 Candidates are being worn down and frustrated as their literature goes out of date and signs gather dust in garages or expensive campaign offices that can’t be fully opened yet. Expensive phone lines sit idle while volunteers tire and lose interest. The human cost can’t be understated here. While many don’t participate in politics it has to be kept in mind that the vast majority of people who do are volunteers whether candidates or campaign managers. These people are taking time off work and time out in their lives in order to pursue political change and having no real schedule makes this nearly impossible and terribly taxing physically and emotionally.

 Elections Alberta tries to maintain the temporary staff that they have trained and they pay for booked office spaces while they wait for the formal election call that Redford appears afraid to make.

 Worst of all an already cynical and increasingly apathetic electorate is becoming disgusted with politics as we live in this circus of a hybrid almost-campaign period. A fixed election date would not solve everything but it at least would put a light at the end of the tunnel and a deadline to the show.

 Simply picking a day and sticking to it would have been Redford’s easiest promise to keep yet she broke it. The reason for this is clear. This election date tinkering provides a huge advantage to the party in power while it demoralizes and tires out opposition campaigns. It also however abuses and tires the electorate. Unfortunately Redford has demonstrated like so many other PC leaders that she cares about the retention of personal power far more than the interests of Albertans.

 Just call the election and get it over with already Redford. Show a little glimmer of principle for the first time in your short leadership.