Victoria cab driver Ron Schinners had just dropped off a passenger late at night and was driving along an unlit road when he saw the flames in the distance.
"I drive up to it and it's a campaign sign on fire," Mr. Schinners said in an interview. "I was like, 'Oh, wow. I'm going to take a Vine of that.'"
The clip he posted to the video-sharing app shows half of a two-sided Conservative campaign sign engulfed in flames, burning fuel dripping on to the grass below. A week later, two more Tory signs in a nearby riding were torched. (A Duncan man was charged with arson in connection with these two fires.)
Lawn signs burning ominously by the roadside are a rare sight during election season, but there have been a significant number of reported thefts and other incidents of vandalism over the ubiquitous signs.
Vancouver alone has received 41 formal complaints regarding the placement of federal election signs since the writ dropped on Aug. 2. The city's street-use inspectors have also been proactive in removing signs violating municipal bylaws, having impounded 123 as of the weekend.
Impounding charges range from $100 to $300 a sign, depending on level of staff and equipment required for removal.
The limited research available on the effectiveness of political signs suggests they do make a difference. Studying last year's provincial by-elections in Alberta, Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt and his colleagues found a strong correlation between the number of signs on private property and the by-election winners (and even vote percentages) in two of three ridings studied. The researchers believe an incorrect prediction for the third riding was due to a low overall sign total.
"In a secret ballot election, for you to signal voting intent like that, I think is significant," Mr. Bratt said. "You also put a sign on for advertising purposes, to signal to your neighbours and in some cases passing traffic. … It was a pretty good predictive model for how the results would go."
If the researchers' latest count of signs mirrors the final vote count – this time in Calgary Centre for the federal election – the key riding will go Liberal for the first time since 1968.
Some people have taken more creative approaches to making their positions known. In the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, for example, tinfoil hats were affixed to signs bearing the image of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
Along Vancouver's major artery of Granville Street near King Edward Avenue, a series of signs fashioned in the style of the Tories' blue, white and red signs affixed to lamp posts bore slogans, including "vote to gag scientists," "vote for niqab fear," "vote for a smaller, meaner Canada."
If you support these notions, a sign at the busy intersection reads, "vote for that guy." A white arrow points kitty-corner to a 10-by-14-foot sign bearing the name of Erinn Broshko, the Conservative candidate for Vancouver Granville. (The signs, which violated municipal bylaw by being on public property, have since been removed.)
The city has received four formal complaints over Mr. Broshko's sign, by far the largest and most prominent along Granville Street. However, the city notes that it is allowed, as it is on private property and there are no size restrictions on such signs.
Constable Brian Montague with the Vancouver Police said campaign-sign shenanigans do merit a call to authorities when there are violations of the Criminal Code or the B.C. Trespass Act.
"I don't know what these individuals are trying to do, other than make some sort of a political statement," he said, "but they should be making that statement at the polls."
Some have found alternative uses for the campaign signs.
"I'm not an NDPer," said Joseph Planta, who lives in the riding of Vancouver Kingsway, "but I put a Don Davies sign on the lawn because I don't want the other candidates knocking on my door."