Edmonton-Strathcona Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman surveys the damage done to some of his signs on an apartment property along Whyte Avenue and 97 Street in Edmonton on Friday, April 22, 2011.
Credits: CODIE MCLACHLAN/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
It's one of the most hotly contested ridings in the country, and the battle is showing up on signs in Edmonton-Strathcona.
Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman says he's frustrated that vandals continue to target his election signs.
"I feel bad for the volunteers who spend their Saturdays for the whole campaign building these signs and put them out," he said.
"It's a distraction, but we're not going to let it take away from the issues that are important. It's unnecessary, there's no room for this in an election campaign,"
Volunteers loaded up the battered signs and traded them for new ones.
It's the latest in many replacements, says Hastman.
"We have no reason to believe other parties are responsible," he says. "But we need them to join us in saying that no one should be doing this to anyone's signs .. and the democratic process should be respected."
Which they do, says Erica Bullwinkle, campaign manager for incumbent Linda Duncan's campaign.
"It's undemocratic to take down other people's signs," she says.
Bullwinkle says she saw Hastman's battered signage Friday morning as she headed to the campaign office, just down the street.
"I called them and let them know that some of their signs were hit," Bullwinkle says.
Election vandalism is nothing new, she says.
"We have them trashed, stolen, hidden, you name it," says Bullwinkle.
Neither party suspects that the other is responsible for the vandalism.
"I don't think it's politically motivated," she says. "I think people who care about politics wouldn't do that."
Hastman has signs on two properties owned by RentEx Homes along 82 Avenue, and several more around the city.
The signs on RentEx properties have been causing headaches for president Les Michaelson.
"I've been getting so many emails about how I can post the signs on the lawns of my properties when I have tenants that may not agree," he says. "But that's a common area. Tenants only lease the individual suites."
One email came from an NDP staffer, he says.
"Joel French sent me one saying he intended to boycott his company and encourage others to do so," he says.
French has since apologized for that email.
Michaelson says he has every right to express his choices, just as anyone else does.
"I should be able to put a sign on my property to show what political party I support," he says. "To the same degree, I allow the tenants that live in our building to do the same thing."
It's been a busy week for Hastman who says he's been advocating for those who work in the oilsands industry -- one he says incumbent Linda Duncan plans to shut down.
"Whether they work directly in the oilpatch or anywhere, they should be concerned," he said. "Everybody's job is on the line."
Duncan has denied her party has any plans to quell oilsands development.