Elections Canada takes up arms, risks losing the war for us all

I admit, I have an abnormal obsession with politics, and as I’ve reassured some of my concerned friends during these past weeks: this is the call to battle for political geeks and if I’m my Blackberry becomes even more of an extension of my thumbs, do not worry, I will soon emerge to my “normal” state of following politics for only a few hours a day rather than full-time.

What is at the root of my attraction to politics? It’s a love of liberty, of this country and a love of the democratic system which undergirds it. The wisdom of the people and power and rights conferred to them — not by a constitution, Charter or any other political derivation, but from their very birthright as free persons — is at the core of the concept which defines our understanding of governance.

Election is war. In fact, battling factions called parties wage campaigns carefully considered from their war-rooms complete with psy-ops and black-ops, while pollsters provide reconnaissance for planners in the map room who send their lieutenants on tour. Foot soldiers are marshalled to the front lines by local commanders to knock on doors, make calls and at times good coffee. Communications officials are on the horn spinning their stories, boosting morale and deploying propaganda over enemy territory.

Some say that all is fair in love and war but in this war, there are rules. In a war for democracy — certainly a cause worth fighting for — all soldiers should fight fair lest something greater than their campaign is lost.

Elections Canada is the arbiter of the rules of electoral war. The agency, which could have been set up in The Hague, surveys the battlefield, tends to the wounded and at times runs its own carefully calculated raids. Elections Canada keeps civilians out of harm’s way and unlawful third party combatants at bay.

I have spent some time during this campaign pointing out various missteps and technical infractions of unfriendly parties in order to do my part to ensure that the battles fought during this campaign are fair and that the rules of combat are equally enforced. However, what is to be done when those that enforce the rules are ignorant of them?

In a spirit of a temporary armistice to protect the process and its ends that we fight for — no matter our stripe — from the protectors of this process themselves, I must call into question the occurrences reported in this dispatch from the field,

Landlords can order tenants to remove signs supporting federal election candidates, Elections Canada said Tuesday, after an Edmonton woman told CBC News she was threatened with eviction if she didn’t remove her sign.

Marilyn Dumont said she received a letter from her landlord saying she would be evicted within 14 days if she didn’t remove the sign from her apartment window by Wednesday.

“What I have is a signed letter from the landlord saying that I need to take the sign down and that we’re not allowed to post signs inside or outside of the premises,” she said.

The sign was for Linda Duncan, who is running for the NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona.

In Dumont’s lease, there is a prohibition against placing advertisements in apartment windows.

“Yes I do rent a space. And yes I did sign a lease that says, you know, I couldn’t put signs up for advertising. But I don’t feel this is advertising. It’s an election and it seems to me my democratic right to be able to express my opinion,” she said.

CBC could not reach Dumont’s landlord for comment.

But a spokeswoman for Elections Canada said while the agency has guidelines for the placement of signs on public land, it has no rules and takes no position about signage on private property, because its an issue between a landlord and a tenant.

“It’s a legal thing and has nothing to do with Elections Canada. It’s up to the tenant and the landlord to come to an agreement and follow up,” said Marie-France Kenny of Elections Canada in Alberta.

However, Elections Canada’s own rules state:

322. (1) No landlord or person acting on their behalf may prohibit a tenant from displaying election advertising posters on the premises to which the lease relates and no condominium corporation or any of its agents may prohibit the owner of a condominium unit from displaying election advertising posters on the premises of his or her unit.

Elections Canada should enforce the rules of this election fairly, no matter the fighting party. For if the rights that our troops fight to protect are victims of the process, all of us have lost the war.

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