Mr. Controversial

Mark Makela has drawn criticism for his sign, but he doesn't mind as long as people head to the polls

If there is any criticism that could be levied against self-styled "rigpig" Mark Makela - and there are those who have - one thing that could not be said is that he's dispassionate, and especially when it comes to politics.

The Rolla man has loudly and publicly swore at those he's disagreed with (for which he's apologetic), travelled hours to see provincial party leaders, and claims to have attended Premier Ralph Klein's funeral.

Those who travel Dawson Creek's highways have seen his political statement and not even noticed that he was responsible.

Makela has put up a sign - independent of any political party - attacking the NDP, on the traffic circle within Dawson Creek.

Already, the sign - worth $275 - has been destroyed three times already, and Makela is now on his fourth sign.

But Makela said he's not done yet. Until May 14 - the date the election ends - he plans to put these signs all across the province, going all the way into Victoria.

"I have one, maybe two for every major intersection from here to Vancouver," he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, he had already gotten down to Vernon, B.C. - a city located over 1,000 kilometres south of Dawson Creek.

His signs have not always gotten the friendliest responses. One of the signs he placed in Prince George was similarly vandalized - but he claims his friends put up two more.

He said that he has been told that other NDP supporters are planning to take down his signs.

But he hopes that the signs could, in its own way, revitalize democracy.

"My whole part of it is to get that 50 per cent who doesn't vote - through a little bit of controversy, whatever, get them out there, get off their fat lazy asses and off to the polling state and vote," Makela added. "Preferably not for the NDP, but vote."

In his world - he hopes to get 85 per cent of eligible voters out - he feels that 100 per cent voter turnout is too unrealistic. He said that during low voter turnout, a small percentage of the people who voted for the party can decide an election - something he doesn't appreciate.

"Why should 15 or 20 per cent divide the whole fate of the province for the next four years?"

The 62-year-old Makela was born and raised in B.C., and still works as a grader. The evidence of his line of his work can be seen in his hands, with fingers whitened by years of work and fingernails with black spots upon them, and a firm handshake.

To be interviewed by the Dawson Creek Daily News, he wore white camoflauge fleece sweat pants, a torn black Yukon Brewhouse hoodie, and wide purple rock-star sunglasses.

Makela has done manual labour all his life.

During the 1990s, he left the province because of the lack of work that he felt was caused by the NDP to work in places like Brooks, Alta. It was partly for this reason that he decided to act.

"The first time I ever waved an 'NDP sucks' sign about 15 years ago was in the early 1990s," he said. The sign - made from metal by a carpenter friend, and one that he still keeps - has both the French and English spelling of the phrase, because Makela recognizes that Canada is a bilingual country.

Despite his signs, the most recent poll issued from election website Three-Hundred Eight shows that the NDP have a lead in the provincial election, at around a 44 per cent vote, followed by the Liberals at 36 per cent. This possibility is something that Makela disproves of.

"I'm just here to remind people of what it was like when they were in power the last time in the 1990s," he said. In campaign materials, the NDP has praised the economic growth the province experienced during the 1990s, citing figures that the Liberals dispute.

Last Friday, he placed the first $275 sign against the NDP. That sign lasted two hours before somebody decided to express their apparent displeasure with his contribution to political discourse.

Makela said that a woman told him that someone driving a "jacked up four by" ran down the sign with his car, and he promptly called police.

Dawson Creek RCMP Sgt. Scott West said that while campaign signs had been defaced, he could not specify which party had their signs defaced.

These signs follow B.C. election law, as well. According to Anne Clayton, the district electoral officer, his sign meets all the requirements necessary for election signage.

With that in mind, he has already replaced the sign twice, and is now on his third sign - although they all share the same hammer and sickle associated with Soviet communism and slogans against the NDP.

Makela said he plans to go down south to areas that have higher populations and more electoral votes and ridings. He feels that these areas would make more of an impact.

He has cast a vote for the Liberals. "I voted for Christy Clark," he said. "I like that girl."

The only support that Makela said he has been given is a place to stay at his sisters, and fuel paid for by an associate, who he said doesn't want to be named. His niece has also volunteered to help put the sign back up in Dawson Creek, as well.

Despite the sign's controversial nature, Makela's is still one large sign when compared to the hundreds scattered around the Peace Region alone. As an individual, his campaign spending is limited to about $3,000. A single political party's elections campaign in the Peace Region itself can run over $40,000.

It's still unclear whether or not Makela's signs will increase voter turnout. But many in the Peace Region believe that these numbers should increase. In the 2009 election, 38 per cent of eligible voters turned out - the third lowest in the province, according to B.C. Elections.

Some have cited the inconvenience of having to physically go out to vote on Election Day as reasons not to vote. But Makela, on his own dime and on his own time, has decided to spend thousands of dollars and days at a time to make sure his voice is heard not only in the ballot box, but on the streets as well.

If this election's turnout is similar to the 2009, that would leave those who could vote but chose not to with some questions they might want to ask themselves.

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