LAKELAND - Two municipalities in the Lakeland have now received reports of candidate signs going missing, and candidates in the St. Paul region have also noted a trend emerging over the past few weeks.
Both the City of Cold Lake and MD of Bonnyville have posted notices in the past week, stating candidates have reported damaged or removed signs. Two candidates within the St. Paul region have also confirmed missing signs leading up to the municipal election.
"The Municipal District of Bonnyville has received complaints that 2021 Municipal Election candidates’ signs are being damaged or removed," reads a statement from the municipality, dated Oct. 7.
In the nearby City of Cold Lake, similar reports have been made, with a notice posted on Oct. 5.
"The City of Cold Lake is reminding residents that campaign signs that are lawfully placed should not be removed or damaged," reads the notice.
Signs are the personal property of candidates, and have likely been placed in locations in accordance with provincial legislation.
"Anyone caught tampering with election signs can be charged with Criminal Mischief under the Criminal Code of Canada," according to the MD of Bonnyville.
In the County of St. Paul candidate Ross Krekoski took to social media last week, and confirmed with Lakeland This Week that he has noticed a handful of signs placed along roadways have gone missing. He noticed the missing signs while out campaigning and door knocking, and was also alerted by a resident to a missing sign along Highway 646.
Krekoski says he doesn't want to make any assumptions, but affirms he has been following the rules on where he can place sings. In the County, most signs are placed along roadways since they are most visible that way. Thankfully, it is just the smaller signs that seem to have gone missing, and none of his larger signs placed on wooden frames.
Nearby within the Town of St. Paul limits, there have been more reports of missing signs. Candidate and incumbent Ron Boisvert confirmed that half of his signs have gone missing. He had a total of 20 signs placed throughout town, and now there are only 10, he says. He's also heard from fellow candidates that similar issues have been noted.
As to where the signs have gone - no one knows.
"We can't figure it out," says Boisvert, adding, "It's frustrating." He noted the signs are only out for a short period of time, and if people are caught taking signs, they can face some hefty consequences.
Penalties are decided on a case-by-case basis, but infractions could fall under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Canada Elections Act.
Esther Quiambao, the MD’s director of Legislative and information services, told Lakeland This Week, “It seems to actually be something that's going around, because even the City of Cold Lake is experiencing some issues too.” Quiambao explained that the MD has received reports from candidates informing them that some campaign signs have been removed or have been damaged.
“We've noticed it with different signs, so I can't really say if it was one specifically,” she noted. “It isn't a lot, but it has come up a few times. Because it has come up, we really just wanted to put it out there to remind the general public that this is something that is considered private property and it is a criminal offence to damage them or move them.”
Emphasizing that signs are the personal property of candidates, Quiambao adds that the recent vandalism is unlikely to be related to sign location.
“I don't think the placement of the candidate signs is the issue. Maybe it's just the society shifting,” she speculated. “I really have no idea, as this is a first for me.”
The City of Cold Lake notice was posted the same day the municipality held its all candidates election forum.
"The City of Cold Lake is reminding residents that campaign signs are the property of the candidates and that they should not be tampered with or removed."
In some cases, residents may feel a sign has been placed on private property without permission, or is located in a place it should not be. If this is the case, concerned residents of the MD are asked to contact the returning officer at 780-826-3171.
The returning officer for the City of Cold Lake can be reached by calling City Hall at 780-594-4494 or by emailing email@example.com.
In the City of Cold Lake, campaign signs can be posted from Aug. 23, 2021 to Oct. 20, 2021. Candidates must receive permission from property owners to place signs on private property. Signs placed on public property must be at least 7.5 meters away from intersections.
Signs can be removed by bylaw officers if they are improperly placed, have become unsightly, or there is a safety concern with its placement.
Lakeland This Week reached out to RCMP in the St. Paul and Bonnyville regions earlier in the week, and neither reported having received any complaints regarding damage or theft of candidate signs.
*With files from Jazmin Tremblay