Two candidates in the upcoming City of Victoria council byelection say they are facing increasing animosity both online and in real life, with people targeting their campaign signs.
Candidate Stephen Andrew took to Twitter on Thursday to denounce “systematic” theft and vandalism of his campaign signs along Douglas and Superior Street and throughout James Bay.
Andrew has filed a complaint with Victoria Police and says he also plans to investigate the occurrences himself.
While maintaining that he has no evidence to suggest who is responsible for the vandalism, Andrew added that he has faced criticism and harassment from alleged supporters of Together Victoria — a slate running opposing candidate Stefanie Hardman for the byelection — about the number of campaign signs he has posted around the city.
“On social media, Together Victoria individuals have been complaining about my signs, asking me to take them down, and saying there are too many,” said Andrew in an interview with Victoria Buzz.
“The statements Together Victoria and their supporters and organizers have made in the public realm like social media are dogwhistles and they know better than that.”
Victoria Police spokesperson Cst. Cam MacIntyre confirmed that police are investigating the vandalism reports, but due to a lack of witnesses and video footage, there is very little for officers to work with. Anyone with information, is asked to call the VicPD non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 ext 1.
“If in fact it is a result of political disagreement, open dialogue is immeasurably better than resorting to property crime,” said MacIntyre in an emailed statement to Victoria Buzz.
“It’s important that people are respectful of the property of others, as those campaigning are investing a significant amount of resources and energy in an effort to serve the citizens of Victoria.”
For his part, Andrew says his campaign will keep putting up signs, and calls on all candidates to instruct their supporters, members, and followers to “play nice”.
Andrew’s opposition, and Together Victoria candidate, Stefanie Hardman says she has herself experienced a rise in vandalism through attacks on her signs as well as online harassment.
“My election signs have unfortunately been vandalized for weeks. This has included them being knocked down, stolen, defaced with markers, caked with mud,” said Hardman in an interview with Victoria Buzz.
“I’ve faced harassment from anonymous social media accounts… It’s clear that we’re seeing increased toxicity in elections, through anonymous online attacks and the destruction of election material.”
Despite these challenges, Hardman says she has not filed any police complaints, adding that she does not feel the need to dedicate police resources to sign vandalism at a time when officers are “already facing a lot of challenges” in Victoria.
“I strongly condemn the vandalism of all election and ongoing online harassment,” she said.
“I hope that all campaigns can focus on the things that matter to the people of Victoria in this critical byelection and support efforts to make our politics less toxic.”