Cambridge resident Jamie Colwell received a message from Ward 8 candidate Vanden Patel recently that disappointed him.
Patel was out canvassing the neighbourhood as he often does when he noticed numerous election signs knocked over and damaged.
“My first reaction was compassion towards other candidates with their hard work being destroyed,” Colwell said.
“The next feeling was disappointment, as this has been happening at every election at all levels of government. It’s getting worse each election.”
His frustration prompted him to speak up on social media where he received a lot of responses. Some were just as disappointed, some pointed out it was just ‘kids being kids’, while other said the sign was in the wrong place.
“The incidents have happened all over town,” Colwell said.
“This isn't just kids being kids. This is a purposeful form of disrespect to democracy and the candidates.”
Colwell understands that emotions can run hot around election time and political issues can cause some to become heated in debate. But this is about more than just politics, Colwell says.
“Please understand there is more to it than just a sign,” he said.
“That's a volunteers hard work destroyed, that's someone's money in replacing the sign and the gas. If you want to express your frustration please do it the democratic way by voting. If you feel the sign is in the wrong place, contact bylaw.”
Speaking of the law, Waterloo Regional Police Service reminds residents that damaging election signs is illegal.
“Damaging campaign election signs is illegal and charges may include mischief to property,” said Brad Hickey, public information officer for WRPS.
“The complainant would need to file a property damage report and the incident would then be investigated. Anyone with information in connection to these incidents is encouraged to call police or Crime Stoppers. Anonymous tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website.”
While there is no quick fix to prevent this type of damage, Colwell says it comes down to each person showing respect to those around them.
“Really, the only way to stop anger is kindness,” he said.
“The more people see candidates helping other candidates when these acts occur shows democracy working. Yes, all candidates want to be elected, but no candidate, at least I hope, wants to see other peoples signs ruined. Picking up those signs and sharing good deeds will set an example.”
Colwell hopes this is a larger lesson about how important democracy is and the rights and freedoms Canadian citizens have with elections.
“It’s disappointing but at the same time an opportunity to explain how great we as a country have it,” he said.
“Many countries don't have the rights and freedoms we have. We also need to show more community spirit. With the last 4 years we have had further and further division between differences of opinion.Which in turn has created a lot of animosity towards politics in general. It's ok to agree to disagree with someone's views. How we respond to those disagreements is what truly matters because others are watching.”