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Canada‘Don’t vote for →’: An East York couple’s protest over an unwanted election sign goes viral

16:20  17 september  2019
16:20  17 september  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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‘Don’t vote for →’: An East York couple’s protest over an unwanted election sign goes viral© Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited “Come by and take a selfie with our new renovations,” radio host and podcaster Dan Lovranski wrote sharing a photo of a campaign sign he says was placed on his East York lawn without permission. ‘Don’t vote for →’: An East York couple’s protest over an unwanted election sign goes viral© Steve Russell East York couple Katie Jeanne and Dan Lovranski with the signs they used to protest the election sign that had been placed on their front lawn.

A colourful protest by an East York couple over a misplaced election sign has sparked an intense reaction — all over a piece of bad advice, they say.

After Katie Jeanne and Dan Lovranski said an Elections Canada worker told them — incorrectly, at first — they could not throw out a sign for Toronto-Danforth’s Conservative candidate that had been placed on their front lawn without permission, the pair decided to get creative.

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“Don’t vote for →,” the couple wrote on one hand-painted poster they staked beside the offending sign on Sunday. “They placed their sign on our lawn without our consent,” they wrote on a second — both in big bold letters inside a yellow border, Honest Ed’s style.

Lovranski then posted a picture of the display to Facebook. “Come by and take a selfie with our new renovations,” he wrote in the caption.

That soon sparked an avalanche of divisive comments — more than 650 on Lovranski’s personal Facebook page, hundreds more in a separate Reddit thread — including several from people who shared similar stories and dozens more alleging he had put the sign on his own lawn in some kind of anti-Conservative stunt, an idea the radio host and podcaster called “ridiculous.”

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Reached by phone on Monday, Conservative candidate Zia Choudhary, a realtor who in 2018 ran for city council in Scarborough Centre, confirmed his campaign volunteers placed the sign on the couple’s lawn. They removed it Sunday afternoon shortly after seeing the photo on social media, Choudhary said.

He said his volunteers reported they had received permission to place the sign while door-knocking in late May for the Oct. 21 vote.

(Both Jeanne and Lovranski, who have lived at the home for almost 10 years, said they never met Choudhary’s volunteers in May. They added they do not want to display election signs on their lawn — “Even the party I support, it’s nobody’s business, man,” Lovranski said)

The sign appeared in the middle of the couple’s front yard Thursday while Lovranski said he was working in the back yard. If the campaign had knocked on the door first, he said, he didn’t hear them.

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At first, the couple “planned to just throw it out and move on,” Jeanne said, but then a friend told them it might be illegal to throw out a campaign sign.

So they said they left a voicemail with a number for Choudhury’s campaign asking them to pick up the sign — “we assumed it was a mistake,” Jeanne said — and the next day she called Elections Canada to clarify what they could do with it.

Jeanne said she was surprised to hear it would indeed be illegal to throw out the sign and that “we weren’t even supposed to remove the sign.”

“Can you repeat that?” she said she asked the woman on the other end of the line.

It is, in fact, legal to remove a campaign sign that has been placed on your property without your permission, an Elections Canada spokesperson clarified on Monday, noting that the couple appears to have received correct advice after that first call.

(Lovranski said he separately complained to Elections Canada online and was told in a followup email that if the campaign failed to respond promptly, he could remove and store the sign.)

Feeling stuck — she said Lovranski at first wanted to write “Don’t vote” on the Conservative sign itself, but that too would have been illegal — Jeanne said they painted the posters to tell passersby both that they didn’t endorse the campaign and that they hadn’t put it there themselves.

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As for those conspiracy theories on Facebook, Jeanne said that although she can understand that in “a day like we live in today” some people might assume their story was faked, no, they are not a pair of agents provocateurs working for the Liberal Party of Canada.

They would have simply removed the sign, had they known the law, Lovranski said. Not that he regrets making the signs. The conversation is helping people learn their rights and, as a bonus, it brought out “all the crazies,” he said cheerfully — “It was successful on several fronts!”

The riding of Toronto-Danforth is held by Liberal incumbent Julie Dabrusin. It was the seat of longtime NDP leader Jack Layton before his death in 2011.

According to the polling website 338Canada, Dabrusin is a slight favourite to retain the seat over New Democrat candidate Min Sook Lee.

What can you do if a campaign places a sign on your lawn without permission?

It is generally illegal to interfere with election advertising, such as a campaign sign, but the law does not prevent you from removing a sign placed on your property without your permission, an Elections Canada spokesperson said in an email.

It is your property, after all.

“You may wish to contact the candidate or registered party whose sign it is to tell them you did not request the sign and ask them to remove it,” the spokesperson said, pointing .

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During the election, any complaint about lawn signs or a candidate’s actions should go to the office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is responsible for ensuring the parties follow the Elections Act, not Elections Canada.

The commissioner’s website allows you to submit complaints online.

If a sign on public property violates municipal or provincial laws, it’s the responsibility of the city to remove it after first notifying the candidate.

Nevertheless, a campaign needs the owner’s permission to place a sign immediately in front of or next to their property, even if it is placed on public land such as the allowance along side city streets, staff at 311 said in an email.

A resident can remove and dispose of any election sign on or abutting their private property, or contact the campaign.

For other complaints about signs on public property, you can call 311.

The service line received more than 500 complaints about election signs in and around the 2015 federal election campaign, according to 311. It has received 24 complaints this campaign so far since July.

More generally, your landlord does not have the right to prevent you from putting up a campaign sign in your unit, nor does a condo corporation — though it can put reasonable limits on the size and type of sign you can display.

Ed Tubb is an assignment editor and a contributor to the Star’s coverage of the 2019 federal election. He is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @edtubb

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