Vandalism a sign of political times

Politics: Wildrose, PCs both paying the price

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 04:38 pm

Ursula Hoppenheit, 82, studies the new John Barlow sign that replaced one that had been vandalised.
Ursula Hoppenheit, 82, studies the new John Barlow sign that replaced one that had been vandalised.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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An Okotoks resident, who is a veteran of several provincial campaigns, received a clear sign of how heated the 2012 provincial election is in the Highwood constituency.

Eighty-two year-old Ursula Hoppenheit had a large PC election sign destroyed from her front yard on the corner of Ardiel Drive and Centre Street on April 8.

“I went out at about 9 a.m. and when I came back the sign was gone,” Hoppenheit said.

When she found it, the sign had been spray-painted and torn apart.

Hoppenheit said she has been involved in supporting the Progressive Conservative party since Harry Alger won the Highwood seat in the 1980s.

“I have always had big signs in my yard and I have never had vandalism issues in the past,” she said. “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.”

She has since replaced the sign.

Highwood PC candidate John Barlow said vandalism to signs has been an issue during the campaign.

“We have gone through a lot of signs,” Barlow said. “They have been spray-painted or torn off lawns. I don’t blame other parties... I think it is coming from passionate supporters and maybe their passion has been misdirected a little bit. It’s a political campaign and everybody should have the opportunity to voice their message. I just wish they would do it at the ballot box.”

Barlow also had a large sign just outside of High River spray painted with an anti Bill 36 symbol, a message to put a halt to the controversial Land Stewardship Bill.

It was a vandal with some political savvy. Barlow had spoken in favour of the bill during the candidates’ forum in Okotoks on April 10.

“We understand that there are going to be people out there vandalizing signs,” he said. “It happens to everybody, all parties. What disturbed me about this sign is that someone was clearly targeting our sign.”

He estimates the cost of replacing the double-sided sign to be around $80.

The vandalism does come at a cost. All the local PC signs were purchased by supporters of the Highwood PC campaign.

“We raised the money ourselves,” Barlow said. “It is difficult on our budget to replace those signs.”

He said nearly half of his campaigns signs have been vandalized.

He readily admitted there are Wildrose signs being vandalized in Highwood. It’s an act he would not condone from his supporters.

“If we have supporters out there who were damaging signs of the other parties, we would never condone it,” he said. “I hope our supporters would show respect for the other campaigns.”

Brenda Lackey, campaign manager for Highwood Wildrose candidate Danielle Smith, said their signs have also been vandalized, but unfortunately, it’s almost become part of the campaign over the years.

“There’s nothing we can do about vandalism,” Lackey said. “We have had signs run over in High River, we know that. It is, what it is. I have worked on a lot of campaigns, it always happens and we know it is going to happen sooner or later. You just move on. It’s not worth the energy to worry about it.”

Okotoks RCMP Staff Sergeant Wade Sparks said he has not received any complaints about vandalism to political signs. He said it is a criminal offence, however, pressing charges is difficult unless someone is caught in the act, or there are eyewitness’ accounts.

Ross Shapka, manager of protective services in High River, said he has not received any complaints about vandalism to signs.

“But you know I have been out walking the dog and I have seen signs that have been pulled up from lawns,” he said.


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