Nepean residents perplexed by campaign within a campaign
Signs posted advocating against Chandra Arya, Liberal MP since 2015, were then vandalized
In the quiet suburbs of Nepean, confusion brews over a silent war about election signs — at least one in particular.
In addition to signs for local candidates in Monday's federal election, a third-party sign has popped up: "Nepean deserves better, not Arya."
Those signs have been posted in front of Liberal signs for incumbent Chandra Arya, who has represented the riding since 2015.
Residents who spoke to CBC News say they have noticed the "Not Arya" signs, and subsequently spotted them damaged and sometimes removed.
WATCH | Have you seen the 'Not Arya' signs around Nepean? Here's why they're there:
Local Punjabi community behind campaign
Local members of the Ottawa Punjabi Association created the signs as a result of frustration with the MP, according to member Vinny Manes, adding the group has registered as a third party with Elections Canada, which allows it to post the signs.
The catalyst for the campaign, Manes says, was a lack of action during global protests in support of farmers in India fighting against new agricultural laws. They wanted Arya's office to push the federal government, but were met with silence.
"We started talking to people. We started talking to other communities and residents of Nepean ... I would say it was 70 per cent of them didn't even know the name of their MP," said Manes.
Arya won the seat when Liberals swept to a majority government in 2015, then he was re-elected with about 45 per cent of the vote in 2019, winning by 8,613 ballots.
Manes said Arya's track record of inaction sparked some community members to start a campaign to ensure he would not be re-elected.
"It's not that Mr. Arya didn't support us because he didn't want to. We're saying Mr. Arya didn't support us or anyone else because he doesn't have the competency to do so," said Manes.
A statement from Arya's campaign team stated he "has always been there for the people of Nepean" and "he has an excellent track record of personal interaction with thousands of Nepean residents."
Arya has also advocated for Canadian farmers and his focus "will continue to be on matters of importance to Canadians and the future security and prosperity of our children and grandchildren in Canada." according to the statement.
Signs removed, vandalized
Earlier this week, association members started installing hundreds of the "Not Arya" signs — that also featured a message saying "No Farmers, No Food."
Manes said almost immediately they were removed or vandalized, and the group is working hard to replace and fix them. He doesn't blame Arya, but wonders who would remove the signs.
"Whoever is doing this, what are you scared of?" asked Manes.
"We are asking a genuine question and, actually, we're making a statement that Nepean deserves better. I mean, there's nothing wrong in asking for better. Everybody needs better."
Manes said he might consider a police report if the signs continue to be removed or destroyed.