Election signs are important

The menace of colourful rectangles!

Ah, the municipal campaign season is nearing its end. And soon, the flock of sign grouses will return to their roosts and hibernate until the next campaign begins. You can identify the sign grouse by their grumbling complaints about the existence of campaign signs. To them, evidently, there is no greater blight on the urban landscape than colourful rectangles by the roadside. And some of those rectangles have pictures on them! THE HORROR!

I’ve even heard politicos themselves mutter their displeasure at signs, hoping that someday they will be banned completely. They say signs are expensive, installing them is time and labour-intensive, and sign clutter is messy. All true. But campaign signs are also important to a healthy democracy for 3 reasons: candidate legitimacy, candidate name recognition, and election awareness.

Candidate Legitimacy

Campaign signs tell the public several important facts about your campaign. They demonstrate that you have the resources (people and money) to purchase and install signs across the area that you’re running in. They demonstrate that you have an ability to follow the rules ( or reveal that you can’t). A well-designed sign shows the voters that you are a serious candidate who will act professionally and understands political norms. And overall, they show that you have a functioning campaign.

Name Recognition

I know you want to believe that the average voter spends time researching the candidates, examining their positions, and making an informed decision, but I have to burst your bubble. Political weirdos like me do that. Most people don’t. The average person spends about 5 minutes thinking about any given election, and that five minutes takes place during their walk to the voting booth. The only political name they have been exposed to in the period between elections is the incumbent, and a lot of voters will choose the name that sounds the most familiar. Campaign signs are the only opportunity the other candidates have to shout their name at the electorate and build name recognition with those voters. So if you like making it even easier for an incumbent to get re-elected, ban campaign signs.

Election Awareness

Those voters I mentioned above, who only spend 5 minutes of political thought per election? They may not even notice that an election is happening. Politics has so little meaning to their day to day life that they can ignore the entire election without being inconvenienced. But each campaign sign they see as they drive to work is an unavoidable reminder that an election is indeed taking place, and they should probably get off their ass and vote. My suspicion is that is really the reason why people get irrationally angry at colourful rectangles: they hate being nagged about their civic responsibility.


To head off one of the common anti-sign complaints, let me clarify: There is a legitimate need for a sign by-law that prevents campaign signs from being placed in a location that interferes with road safety. I’m not arguing against that part of the sign by-laws. Good god, why would anyone? But I am arguing against the elements of the by-law that are driven exclusively by esthetics and feelings. Your feelings are your business, not the governments.

Oh, and the 48 hour deadline to takedown all your campaign signs is arbitrary and malicious. It’s a petty deadline meant to discourage campaigns from putting up signs in the first place.

A little compassion for the grieving

As I get older, I learn that the old cliché rules of social etiquette are actually pretty valid. The first one I came to accept is “don’t discuss religion or politics in polite company”. (I’ll go into why that’s a good rule in a later post.)

And with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last week, I realized there’s another important one: “Don’t speak ill of the dead”. For the purpose of this argument, I’m going to limit this rule to the time period between the death of the individual and their funeral. There’s a practical reason for this rule, and a more important spiritual reason.

Practically, it’s not a wise idea to antagonize people dealing with their grief. Grief puts the human mind in a perilously fragile emotional state. Dealing with grief is the most difficult situation humans find themselves in, and the overwhelming emotions can easily be diverted to easier to manage but more dangerous emotions like rage. It’s the whole “7 stages of grief” business. So picking a fight with the bereaved is unproductive. It makes them your enemy while doing nothing to advance your cause.

But more importantly, you need to have compassion. It’s a basic currency of human decency that you spend on others, in hopes that they will do the same when grief comes for you. Because grief comes for us all, king and servant, pop star and shopkeeper alike.

Now you may be filled with the growing need to rebut my argument with a ‘whatabout’ statement. I’m going to get you to pause for a moment and ask yourself this: why are you so determined to withhold some basic human decency? Any issue, any historical grievance you want to draw attention to will still be there after the funeral. No amount of anger right now will erase any of the past. But in refusing to hold a respectful silence for a few short days, you’re choosing to inflict hurt on people who are already wounded from the loss of a loved one. You do remember that, right? That in addition to being a ceremonial head of state, Elizabeth was a mother, and grandmother, and great grandmother. Let them have their sorrow.

I know it seems unfair that you have to show respect for someone who you think is responsible or representative of great evils inflicted on others. Sorry, but’s that the only way this works. Everybody gets space to grieve. Even the worst person in the world (to you) is loved by someone somewhere. It’s easy to show compassion and grace to people you’re sympathetic to. Compassion for your enemies is much, much harder.

Your shirts not getting shorter, chum

Back in late December my doctor and my blood pressure cruelly ganged up on me. They told me my “blood pressure was too high” and I “needed to lose some weight”. I was so offended that I nearly dropped my giant bag of candy. How dare they say I wasn’t in peak physical form? Maybe I naturally have a blood pressure so high that it scares the doctor!

To be fair, my doctor was very very gentle about telling me to lose weight. She presented all the factors that can raise blood pressure, as listed on the Heart and Stroke foundation documentation, and gave me a moment to realize that all the factors I could control led back to the same goal: weight loss. She was almost too subtle about it. It would have saved us some time if she could have channeled the spirit of a gruff 1950’s doctor and said “Lose some weight, fattie!”

And let us be very frank about one thing: I was fat. Not husky, not hefty, not chubby. I used all those terms to refer to myself, in the guise of supporting a positive self-image. But for me, it was actually a way to pretend my gut wasn’t as large as it was, having grown tremendously over the last 4 years. My delusion was pretty powerful, a testament to the human mind and its ability to only see what it wants to see. I’d go to the gym and think ‘huh, this exercise shirt is shorter than I remember. Must be shrinking.’ Dear reader, it was not shrinking. I was expanding. But the crowning achievement of my motivated reasoning came as I was cooking one day. My front porch overhand of a gut brushed against the edge of a hot frying pan, giving me a small burn. And I was puzzled: Am I cooking differently? Did the pan get larger? DID THE PAN GET LARGER???? No, you deluded dingus, you got larger.

I had told myself that I’d start working on dropping the excess pounds if my doctor ever told me to. And then she did. F*#k. So I pouted for a bit, then I got down to business. I’ll give you the short version of the important part: I stopped overeating. I measure my food and eat enough calories worth of food each day that I lose a half a pound each week. It’s monotonous measuring out my meals every single day. But I know where making special exceptions and excuses will get me: right back to FatTown! Yes, even on my birthday, I kept track of my food. And yes, it did decrease my celebratory mood slightly. But you know what is a real buzz kill? Catastrophic stroke.

Well I can tell you now, after 9+ months of more exercise, more fruits and veggies, and no overeating, that they were completely right. I’ve lost 26 pounds of fat. My blood pressure has come down out of the danger zone, and my doctor has stopped looking Very Concerned when I see see her. My blood pressure isn’t low enough to get her all the way to Not Concerned yet, but I’m working on it. Do I miss gorging? You bet your sweet ass I do.