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Are Election Signs Worth the Environmental Destruction and Inequity They Cause?

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As autumn transitions into winter, leaves will turn golden yellow, burnt orange, crimson red, bloody purple, and russet brown before falling and blowing in the wind, scattering everywhere. With the upcoming Toronto election, and elections taking place throughout Ontario, soon election signs will be scattered everywhere joining the autumn leaves.

Does voter participation correlate with election signs?

Some stats from the 2018 Toronto election:

  • 1,880,371 eligible voters.
  • 769,044 votes cast
  • 41% turnout

 

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It is impossible to assert election signs influence voter engagement when over 1.1 million voters do not turn out. A 41% turnout makes a strong case for the ineffectiveness of election signs. A more recent illustration of the ineffectiveness of election signs; voter turnout in the June Ontario election was only 43.53%, the lowest in any Ontario provincial election.

Toronto only allows election signs to be displayed 25 days before election day (Friday, September 29th – Monday, October 24th).

Within a month, most election signs will end up in landfills.

Can just over three weeks of “sign exposure” sway people to (a) bother to vote and (b) vote for a particular candidate? Based on the abysmal voter participation rate in Toronto elections, the highest post-amalgamation being 54.67% in 2014, I would say “No.”

While signs do not appear to be effective at motivating people to vote, they are incredibly effective at creating visual and plastic pollution. Plastic pollution, the creation and disposal of plastic, is a significant contributor to our current climate change crisis, which almost everyone seeking political office claims to care about.

For personal political gain, candidates hoping to become Toronto’s next mayor or obtain a seat on council put up election signs that are an eyesore, a distraction to drivers, often obstruct visibility and are environmentally destructive. In other words, candidates trash our environment hoping to “possibly” gain a few votes and satisfy their ego.

At the risk of being overly candid, election signs are used by candidates who are more concerned about their political aspirations and the perks that come with it than they are about the environment.

Voters don’t vote for election signs.

Voters vote for candidates they believe in.

Voters vote for candidates who inspire them to vote.

Elections should be about candidates putting forward ideas, opinions, platforms, their community, and their leadership experience. In 2022 an election should not involve plastering signs everywhere which will get strewn about by the wind or vandalized and tossed into the road or on someone’s property.

Yes, I am implying that election signs should be banned outright due to their negative environmental impact. Such a paradigm move would require Toronto’s leadership to advocate that the city is at the forefront of proactively addressing climate change.

Creating less garbage is undeniably the best thing we can do for our environment. Candidates trying to defend using election signs, while hypocritically claiming to care about the environment, point to being able to recycle election signs, as if all the election signs still standing on October 25th will be removed and recycled.

Recycling has a carbon footprint. A zero carbon footprint is achieved by not creating waste that ends up in a landfill or needs to be recycled in the first place.

Additionally, election signs create an equitable issue when it comes to a candidate’s financial ability to purchase election signs. Entry into the political arena be it municipal, provincial, or federal, requires money, hence why most of our political leaders hail from money. I could not even hazard a guess what a serious mayoral candidate for a city the size of Toronto, or someone running for council in the new “oversize” wards, will spend on election signs.

A candidate who can afford election signs is at an advantage or candidates who don’t have their financial means, and I’m just referring to the cost of election signs. There’s also the cost of flyers, buying advertising (radio, Internet banners, print), renting and furnishing a campaign office, purchasing promotional items (Whatever happened to campaign buttons?), etc.

How many great candidates do not put themselves forward due to financial constraints? While banning election signs will not create a utopian level playing field, it will remove the pressure (If those I’m running against are putting up election signs, I must do the same.) of taking on a considerable expense required to run a serious campaign along with eliminating the many negative effects election signs have on our environment.

I would have massive respect for candidates who donate the money they would spend on election signs to a local food bank or shelter. Instead, candidates would rather plaster election signs around their community for political gain than donate their election sign money to a local charity—helping the community they say they care about.

My jaw would drop if I ever saw a print ad, or Internet banner, from a candidate saying: Instead of creating election signs that end up in landfills, I donated $5,000 to the Yonge Street Mission. I care about our environment and community.

Social media’s reach is undeniable. Grassroots marketing (READ: word of mouth) is still just as effective as it was when politicians stood on soapboxes in medieval European town squares. A candidate who has been active in their community does not need election signs to establish name recognition. Unknown candidates are unknown because they have not been active in their community. The belief that election signs will increase name recognition or constituent support is lazy thinking.

Candidates who have the financial privilege to use election signs, and do, cannot claim to care about the environment. Asserting to be concerned about climate change would be hypocritical and an outright lie. It is hypocrisy and lying by politicians that have disengaged people from politics, and it is the main reason they don’t take part in elections.

Consider supporting those candidates who don’t use election signs, which in 2022 are needless and wasteful. Candidates who do not use election signs should be rewarded with their votes for leading by example, which is a trait we should expect from all our leaders.

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Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan

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Afghan refugees: Government delays increasing financial pressure – CTV News

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Refugee advocates are raising concerns that Afghan refugees granted asylum in Canada are being burdened by escalating costs stemming from the government’s delay in processing their claims.

Before they board their flight to Canada, all refugees are required to sign a loan agreement to pay back the cost of their transportation and pre-arrival expenses which can include hotel stays.

Some Afghans identified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as eligible for resettlement have been waiting months for exit permits while living in hotels arranged by the government. The hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their debt.

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The Canadian Council for Refugees says Afghans are being forced to pay for an inefficient bureaucracy.

“It seems like the Canadian government is taking advantage of the vulnerability of people,” says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees. Hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their government debt.

Dench says refugees have no choice but to accept a “legally dubious” contract that doesn’t stipulate a precise loan amount.

“If they want a permanent home they have to sign on to whatever the terms of the agreement are. There’s no negotiation room, so people are forced into this situation.”

LONG WAITS AND BIG BILLS

Because Canada doesn’t recognize the Taliban government Afghans must get to a third country with consular support to complete their refugee applications. Many flee to neighboring Pakistan where Canada has a High Commission in the capital of Islamabad.

Nearly all Afghan refugees deemed eligible for resettlement are placed in the care of the International Organization for Migration while they are overseas.

The IOM organizes both charter and commercial flights to Canada and coordinates hotel stays for refugees as they wait for their exit permits. IOM doesn’t book flights until after IRCC has completed security and medical checks of its applicants. The organization bills the Canadian government approximately $150 per day to house and provide three meals a day for one family.

Of the 25,400 Afghans who have arrived in Canada since August 2021, IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon told CTV News in an emailed statement Friday the organizations has arranged travel for more than 22,000 of those refugees.

The claims of another 15,000 Afghans Canada committed to accepting after the Taliban took over the country have been delayed.

Irfanullah Noori, 28 and his family of five stepped off a plane at Pearson International Airport less than two months ago at the end of October. Before the Taliban took over his homeland in Noori worked as a logistics coordinator at the Kabul International Airport. He qualified for asylum because his brother served as an interpreter for Canadian soldiers.

Before being issued travel documents to Canada, Nouri, his wife and their three children, all under the age of five – stayed in an Islamabad hotel arranged by IOM for three months.

Irfanullah Noori poses with his youngest daughter on October 25, 2022 at the Pakistan International Airport before he boarded plane bound for Canada.

Before boarding his flight he signed a loan agreement. Nouri says IOM staff told him he would need to repay hotel expenses that added up to more than $13,000. That amount does not factor in the cost of flights for his family that he will also have to repay.

MISLEADING COSTS

IRCC says 96 per cent of refugees are able to pay back the loans. Monthly payments on the interest free loans are scheduled to begin one year after refugees arrive in Canada and costs can be spread out over nine years.

The federal government puts a cap of $15,000 on each loan per family, but the Canadian Council for Refugees says this is a misleading number.

Refugee families who have older dependents may have to pay back more than the cap. That’s because dependents over the age of 22 years old, can be considered a separate family unit and required to take on a new loan. Dench says this policy puts refugees in a precarious economic position. She’s seen families fight over finances and hopes and dreams put on hold.

“You have young people who should normally be going to university and pursuing their education but they feel that they’re morally obliged to get down to work, even at a minimum wage job in order to pay off the family debt,” said Dench. She argues the Canadian government should stop requiring refugees to repay the costs of getting them to safety, no matter where they come from.

SIMILAR CLAIMS, DIFFERENT TIME FRAMES

Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Veterans Transition Network has helped raise funds to get interpreters and others out of Afghanistan. Oliver Thorne, VTN’s executive director says he’s frustrated that there are huge variations how long it takes for claims to be approved between applicants with similar profiles

“Some migrants are left in the dark. They don’t know why it’s taking them an additional two, four or six months compared to another interpreter who worked with the Canadian armed forces.” Thorne says IRCC needs to hire and train more staff to speed up the processing of claims.

He’s also calling for the removal of loan requirements, especially for Afghans who assisted the Canadian armed forces.

“They protected our men and women in uniform at great risk to themselves and their families. And secondly, these are going to be Canadians. They’re going to live here in our society down the street from us, and we have nothing to gain by making their transition more difficult,” Thorne said in an interview from Vancouver.

NO DEBT RELIEF

CTV News asked the Immigration Minister if it was fair that the Canadian government was burdening Afghans with additional costs due to the government backlog.

On Friday, Sean Fraser blamed a complicated process, but acknowledged that some refugees had been stuck “for a significant period of time.’ But the minister offered few solutions other than a vague reassurance that his department was “working with Pakistani officials to make sure we’re facilitating the smooth transportation of people to Canada.”

Meanwhile Noori is struggling to make ends meet in his new Ontario home, despite finding a job a few weeks ago at the General Motors plant in Oshawa.

Hired as a data-entry clerk, Noori earns $19/hour and is trying to pick up extra shifts on the weekend so he can make his $2,000 monthly rent on a one bedroom apartment.

Even though he won’t have to start paying back his refugee loan until next year, he’s daunted by the impending bill.

“It’s expensive (here.) I work 8 hours a day and six days a week. It will be very hard for me to pay back.”

After surviving the Taliban, Noori now faces subsistence in Canada.

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Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries

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A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.

Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.

It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.

Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.

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Slain RCMP Const. Yang cleared of wrongdoing in shooting: B.C. police watchdog

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Slain RCMP Const. Yang cleared of wrongdoing in shooting: B.C. police watchdog

British Columbia‘s police watchdog has cleared a slain Burnaby RCMP constable of wrongdoing after she shot a man in the altercation that led to her death.

The Independent Investigations Office says after a review of all available evidence its chief civilian director determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe Const. Shaelyn Yang committed an offence.

It says the matter will not be referred to the Crown for consideration of charges.

Yang, a 31-year-old mental health and homeless outreach officer, was stabbed to death on Oct. 18 while she and a City of Burnaby employee attempted to issue an eviction notice to a man who had been living in a tent at a local park.

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Yang shot the suspect before she died, and the IIO later said Jongwon Ham underwent surgery for his injuries.

Ham has since been charged with first-degree murder in Yang’s death.

“Due to concurrent court proceedings related to the incident, the IIO’s public report will not be released on the IIO website until that process has concluded,” the IIO said in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.

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