Proliferating lawn signs an indicator of discontent

CALGARY — For at least the past year in Calgary, lawn signs have been popping up one after another, expressing support for a string of issues.

Alberta Parks, headwaters coal mining, post-secondary education, health care workers are just some of the hot-button topics raised by the abundant signage.

There might not be an election in sight for a while, but one expert said that’s what it’s all about.

“To think that these signs aren’t political would be very much misreading them,” said Janet Brown, a pollster and political researcher. “They are a new tactic that a lot of public affairs organizations are using.”

UNUSUAL

She said while signs for candidates during an election are a fairly good indicator of voting intentions, it’s unusual to see a wide variety and volume of issues-based signs.

While candidate signs are often assumed to translate into ten times the votes, she said it’s not clear how the issues signs will translate at the ballot box nearly two years from now. But they do show what’s on the minds of many.

“Lawn signs kind of help you prioritize what people’s issues are,” Brown said. “There are things that you’re concerned about, but it crosses a line when they’re ready to put a sign on their lawn.”

STEER CLEAR OF SOCIAL MEDIA

She also suggested the signs may partially be a way to express opinion publicly without the often ugly backlash commonly found online.

“Social media has become so contentious, maybe these lawn signs are a way for people to exert their opinions without getting into the fights that you get into on social media,” said Brown.

A similar idea was floated by Brad Lafortune, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, one of the groups behind the Support Our Colleges and Universities campaign, opposing the provincial government’s deep cuts to post-secondary education and plans to profoundly change the system.

He suggested that many people are sick of their online work lives and are choosing to express themselves outside. Public Interest Alberta has sent out 1,200 signs so far.

“We asked, ‘what can we do to get Albertans to really pay attention to the deep cuts that are happening in post-secondary?” Lafortune said. “Oftentimes it’s hard to really make that issue resonate with folks if they’re not a student or if they’re not working on campus.”

One homeowner in Sunnyside who displayed the universities sign as well as the ubiquitous Defend Alberta Parks signage, said while the issues themselves are important to her, there is also a bigger message for the current UCP government.

“I think this government has made one blunder after another – like, what have they got right? Not much,” said Linda Grandinetti. “From the pandemic to our parks, I mean. Ahhh!”

During an election period all third party advertisers spending more than $1,000 must be registered with Elections Alberta, which includes requirements to disclose sources of funding and other financial and organizational information.

According to price lists published online from manufacturers, most common lawn signs cost between $3 and $5 each to make.

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