It looks like there’s trouble on the campaign trail as vandalism and theft of signs is becoming a headache for two candidates in the Pickering-Scarborough East riding.
Dan McTeague, the riding’s Liberal incumbent, and George Khouri, his Conservative opponent, both say their campaigns have been victims of mischief.
“In one night alone, we were missing 27 large signs,” Khouri said. “We’ve had several times like that as well.”
Khouri’s problem is shared by his rival.
McTeague’s campaign manager, Kuito Maggi, said somebody was spray painting over every one of his candidate’s signs on Finch Avenue in Pickering.
The vandal managed to hit everything from Whites Road and Finch to the end of the street at Brock Road, he said.
The incident doesn’t appear to be random, either.
“We didn’t notice the spray paint on any other candidate’s signs,” said Maggi, who believes the majority of the sign damage is random, caused by people who are often out late and drinking heavily.
But he believes there are exceptions.
“In the case where specific signs get spray painted, it’s probably an individual who has a particular beef with something,” he said.
This is happening at the same time as the incidents in St. Paul and Parkdale-High Park. Over 30 cases of vandalism have been reported in these two ridings, ranging from red L’s being painted on the houses of Liberal supporters, to one incident where a resident with a Liberal sign on his lawn had his break lines cut.
McTeague expressed his disgust towards these incidents.
“This is not just an attack on the Liberal party, but rather an attack on Democracy,” he said.
Khouri’s campaign meanwhile has specific people that drive around looking for missing and damaged signs.
“We are vigilant all the times,” Khouri said. “But it’s a huge riding.”
Pickering-Scarborough East stretches from Brock Road in Pickering, all the way to Morningside and Sheppard in Scarborough. Khouri admits that it’s tough to keep track of these incidents in the whole riding.
“Keeping track of these things side tracks you from the good things you have to do in a campaign,” said Khouri. “They also effect the budget, because you only have X amount of dollars to spend”.
According to Khouri, the destruction and theft of these signs also wastes a lot of hard work.
“My people were out when it was raining, the very first day the writ was called,” he said. “They worked hard in the rain to put up the signs. They looked like wet rats.”
“For some one to just come by after when it’s dry, and destroy their hard work, it’s not right,” he continued.
Khouri is taking his first crack at the Pickering-Scarborough East riding, but McTeague is the incumbent, and has seen this before.
“We are losing signs to vandals and other things,” said McTeague. “But that is some what normal.”
Maggi agrees with his candidate.
“It’s the stuff that happens in elections,” he said. “Not to say that we condone it any way, it’s just not terribly unusual.”
Even if this is the norm, these incidents are putting a bad taste in the mouth of the newcomer Khouri.
“I’m disgusted. Canadian democracy has to be above this,” he said. “What’s more, this is a crime and it is punishable.”
According to Detective Tim Johnstone, at 43 division, these signs are regarded by the law as private property, and anyone caught damaging one can face the same punishment as damaging any other form of property.