We visited eight Toronto constituencies to take stock of the federal candidates’ conflicting lawn signs. This is what we found

On a street corner in downtown Toronto, nestled in a pile of dark leaves, a group of bright signs compete for attention: a lime green campaign sign for Annamie Paul collides with the bright orange of Brian Chang, about a foot from Marci Ien’s crimson panels.

Each sign reveals a litany of small political options. Chang’s sign features his name translated into traditional Chinese characters, as Ien’s sign reminds voters of his incumbent status downtown, with a “re-election” banner on the corner.

They are the kind of decisions that are made at local and national campaign headquarters. Photos of some candidates line the sidewalkswhile others opt for agile symbolism or slogans. Each sign is part of the usual pre-election battle that unfolds on lawns and window sills as candidates call for the support of households and proclaim their names to the masses.

In the run-up to Monday’s vote, the Star visited eight Toronto boroughs to take stock of the images the candidates had chosen and consulted political experts on what they might reveal.

“Campaigns, especially local campaigns, don’t have a lot of money,” said Tamara Small, a campaign and policy expert who teaches at the University of Guelph. “So if they make the decision to do this with finite resources, it is meaningful to them.”

Say cheese!

Many Toronto candidates have chosen to display a headshot on their posters, including liberal headlines Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Arif Virani, and Julie Dzerowicz and several of their opponents, such as Paul Taylor of the NDP and Reuben DeBoer and Adrian Currie of the Green.

It’s a decision Small says can serve multiple purposes. If someone thinks their face is recognizable in their community, a shot to the head could be a way to refresh the memory of voters, he said. It could also convey information about your identity or heritage, she and others noted.

In Toronto’s Parkdale, High Park, Green Party candidate Diem Marchand-Lafortune, whose party biography lists her as of Plains Cree and Métis descent, is pictured holding an eagle feather. In an email, Marchand-Lafortune said that he had been gifted a particular feather after graduating from an indigenous theater program, noting the importance of eagle feathers within First Nations communities, “already that the eagle flies higher (and) closer to the Creator. ”

Randy Besco, an expert on political behavior at the University of Toronto, said the inclusion of headshots has a deeper history in Quebec than in other parts of Canada. Memorial University political marketing expert Alex Marland believes that the expansion of lawn signs on the head can be attributed in part to advances in technology that have made such signs less expensive.

“If you can put a photograph, why not? It’s another way to show who you are, ”he said.

Besco added that a person’s attractiveness can affect their chances, an idea also put forward by Mireille Lalancette, an expert in political communications at the Université du Québec. “We can find them beautiful, ugly or identifiable. We can think that they have a nice smile or that they are really Photoshopped, ”Lalancette said. “Headshots allow politicians to embody themselves, to be a real life person.”

Following the leader

While most NDP signs featured the full name of leader Jagmeet Singh, not all parties visually connected their local candidates to the party’s best weapon. While the Conservative candidates uniformly had signs identifying them as members of the “Conservatives of Canada,” they did not include a comment for the party’s leader, Erin O’Toole. The signals observed for the Greens, whose leader is Annamie Paul, and the Popular Party, the leader Maxime Bernier, followed the same path.

Some liberal signs had “Team Trudeau” written in small print on the top edge, while others did not mention Justin Trudeau by name. Some candidates had a combination of signs throughout their driving.

“This is a 100 percent brand decision, based on probably a good level of polling,” Small said, adding that such decisions were likely made months before the injunction fell, based on the popularity and popularity poll. recognition of leaders. Those variables could have changed since then, if any leader gained momentum or suffered a reputational blow.

“Clearly, the NDP in this campaign believes that Jagmeet Singh is their strength,” he said. The choice of the phrase “Team Trudeau” could be a way of relying on the reputation of a government in general rather than a person in particular, he added: “The leaders in office have a lot of baggage.”

She thinks the Conservatives may have chosen to link to the party, rather than the leader, because of how new O’Toole was in office, with less time to establish name recognition. “You are not going to bet the castle on that at that time. Maybe now they would feel differently, ”he said.

The choice to emphasize a leader or party was based “on who they think will be most attractive,” Besco said, and Marland noted that pre-campaign public opinion research could greatly influence such decisions. “If they feel that their leader is a competitive advantage, they will highlight that leader. If they feel like their leader is a drag or a question mark, then they won’t. ”

Slogans

All the posters of the conservative candidates observed by the Star had a common slogan: the slogan of the party “Securing the future” was written at the top. University of Toronto Professor Emeritus Nelson Wiseman believes it has been a growing trend in recent decades, with parties increasingly controlling and coordinating the images and messages of their candidates centrally.

Several experts who spoke to the Star noted the conservative slogan in the party’s broader message for the 2021 vote, and Small noted that words like “sure” often appeared in conservative political rhetoric. “They want to appear reliable,” Lalancette observed.

Meanwhile, various green signs observed by the Star differed in design, from fonts to slogans, which numerous experts suggested could be related to funding issues and other issues plaguing the national party, leaving local candidates more in the forefront. their own campaigns. “For parties that are very small parties or with very few resources, and the Green Party is clearly one of those participating in this election, central coordination is much less likely,” Marland said.

In downtown Spadina, Toronto’s Fort York, posters of green candidate Amanda Rosenstock pose a question to passersby: “If not now, when?”

That particular catchphrase was often used in environmental circles, Lalancette said. Small also believes that it could be a draw for voters who could lean ideologically towards the Greens, but cast their votes strategically for larger parties. “They are trying to call on people to think differently,” he said. “This candidate is arguing, saying, ‘Hey, planet crisis! We have to get to work! If this is where you are, you might make a different decision. ‘

Additional details: languages ​​and unions

While most of the signs observed by Star were in English only, some were multilingual, with the names of the NDP candidates in two particular sections written in traditional Chinese characters.

In one, the Toronto Center, 8.6% of residents reported that Chinese was their mother tongue in the last census, and the majority spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. In the other, neighboring Toronto-Danforth, the population was recorded to be slightly older, at 9.4%. “I think it’s just an acknowledgment to the communities they serve,” Small said of the decision to include translations on the lawn signs. “He’s telling these people that we understand where we are.”

NDP signs in numerous districts also included a hint of the party’s pro-union position, with a small logo for the Graphic Communications Conference and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, indicating that the sign was made by unionized workers, though The NDP warned the Star in an email that it does not imply endorsement of his party or specific candidates.

Marland doesn’t think the little logo on the lawn signs will grant the NDP new voters, but he thinks the party could have faced tough questions had it not been included. “I don’t know if a lot of people would notice it there, but some people might notice it if they didn’t,” he said.

With a file from Nicholas Keung

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