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Yet Another Canadian Mystery – The “Discover Your Neighbours’ Political Preferences” Game

Voter card, Ottawa, May 2018

It’s campaign time again in the Canadian electoral calendar—on June 7, the Ontario general election will be held to choose the 124 members of the 42nd Parliament of Ontario.

And here comes that awkward moment when you get up one morning and find out your neighbours’ political preferences.

The grumpy old couple at the corner of the block who spend their time shooting dirty looks at kids who venture too close to their lawn? Yep, Conservative. I knew it! The yoga teacher down the street? Green—colour me shocked. The self-proclaimed neighbourhood leader who would start one of these crazy Homeowners Associations if he could gather support? Ah, funny you asked—when Harper was in power, he was a staunch Conservative and he flip-flopped when Trudeau was elected. The newcomers across the park? NDP and Liberals! They probably didn’t want to offend door-to-door canvassers so they took signs from both parties to be accommodating.

I’m not guessing, by the way. I’m just looking at all these campaign signs planted on most front lawns in the neighbourhood.

To me, this is yet another cultural mystery—why do Canadians, who excel at small talk but generally avoid any potentially confrontational topic, have no problem openly showing support for a political party?

I’m telling you, it wouldn’t go down well in France. Imagine waking up one morning and realizing your upstairs neighbour put up the far-right Front National poster on his door, while your downstairs neighbours are rooting for the far-left Parti communiste français? Your lovely 15th-century building will be on fire by the end of the day, I guarantee it.

If you’ve ever been to a dinner party in France, you’ll understand. French love to talk about sex and politics while drinking wine—the cliché is kind of true—and political allegiances are taken seriously. Arguing with friends and family is usually acceptable and often unavoidable but physical fights between leftists and skinheads are common enough during protests and people have died. Neighbours already often find themselves at war for a bunch of reasons including noise complaints, tree branches or property lines dispute. If they start get entangled in political feuds, the population of France will be extinct pretty soon.

But since my Green Party neighbour greets the Conservative couple she shares the lawn with as usual, it must be okay to agree to disagree in Canada.

Beyond this cultural mystery, I find political lawn signs annoying because I consider it easy and lazy campaigning.

“Eh, John, how do we convince citizens to vote for us? Should we build an election-specific platform or something, eh?”

“Oh, no! Let’s just send volunteers cover the riding with lawn signs.”

“But Bob…”

“Don’t argue with me, John! If peer pressure doesn’t work, worst case scenario, undecided voters will remember the name they see the most in the neighbourhood when they cast their ballot.”

Or at least, that’s how I imagine the decision is made in the war room.

I mean, the Liberals and the Conservatives don’t even bother putting a policy statement on these signs—the NDP at least has the “change for the better” motto, which is admittedly a feel-good bromide—, they only show the name of the candidate and the party logo.

We’re electing a provincial government responsible for healthcare, education, workers’ rights (or lack thereof), transportation and some criminal justice and the parties can’t even print a promise on these damn signs? Come on!

But mostly, I hate lawn signs because they make elections feels like a high-school popularity contest. I don’t vote for a candidate. I choose a party based on its DNA because I want it to embody principles that are important to me. For instance, I’ll never vote for the Conservative Party because their values don’t align with mine. Then I review the platform to see if the way the main issues will be tackled make sense to me. Political parties spend way too much time grooming their respective candidates to make them look smart, family-oriented, approachable, community-focused, etc. I don’t want to hear about the number of kids candidates raised in the community or the church they go to, I just need to know they will be working as a team with the rest of the party.

I wish parties would stop marking their territory with lawn signs. It’s such a lame pissing contest…

I’ll go vote on June 7. Don’t even think of putting a damn sign on our lawn.

Campaign signs on Merivale Road, Ottawa, May 2018
Carling Road, Ottawa, June 2018
Carling Road, Ottawa, June 2018
Campaign signs in Chinatown, Toronto, May 2018
Campaign sign on Queen Street, Toronto, May 2018

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