Innisfil to decide election sign issues August 11
By Chris Simon Innisfil Scope August 4 2010
There’s less than three months until a municipal election, but town council still can’t decide exactly how it will regulate campaign signs.
After almost three years of investigation and debate, Innisfil council is expected to vote on an election sign bylaw at a meeting Aug. 11. Under the proposed bylaw, candidates will be prohibited from placing signs on public property, or obstruct the vision of drivers or pedestrians along roadways.
Signs must be at least three metres apart, cannot contain flashing or moving illumination, or words like ‘stop’, ‘look’, or ‘danger’, under the proposal.
“I’m not in favour of this, simply because it’s the 11th hour,” said councillor Bill Van Berkel.
“People could have already bought their signs, and they may not conform with this bylaw. We’re on a very strict budget. I understand that we need a bylaw, but it should have been done before the nomination period.”
Signs would be prohibited from exceeding 1.6-squaremetres in size, with only two being permitted on a residential property, under the proposed bylaw.
The bylaw would also prevent provincial and federal candidates from erecting signs prior to an official election call. Municipal candidates would be prohibited from erecting signs more than 75 days prior to an election. And all candidate signs would need to be removed within five days after an election.
Late last year, council decided to avoid implementing a bylaw, adhering to advice from other local politicians and residents, and admitting the changes would be confusing and unfair to candidates.
Instead, staff were asked to include pamphlets in municipal election packages, asking candidates to be ‘sensible’ with the number of signs placed throughout the area.
However, the lack of firm regulations place staff in a vulnerable position, said town clerk Jason Reynar.
“The town’s current sign bylaw does not specifically address election signs,” said town clerk Jason Reynar, noting several other Ontario municipalities have specific election sign bylaws in place.
In fact, certain provisions of the existing bylaw could be interpreted to conflict with the general guidelines of election signage as outlines in the town’s 2010 election information document. With the election quickly approaching, the lack of bylaw … will undoubtedly raise a number of issues. The absence of a bylaw or policy surrounding election signage hampers staff’s ability to provide clear and impartial guidance to candidates.
“It also hinders staff’s effort to appropriately frozen for mayor address placement and removal of election signs, as well as consistently respond to concerns associated with public safety.”
However, approving a bylaw will appear rushed at this point in the campaign, says mayoral candidate Barb Baguley.
“It is unfair to change the rules in the midst of the process,” she said, addressing council. “Since the nomination period started Jan. 1, it seems unfair, since this could impact people financially.
Should council decide to make adjustments in the mayor and future, it should be in advance of a campaign.”
“We wrestled with this at length,” said councillor Rod Boynton. “Because of those comments and objections, we ended up turning it down. To redo this, it appears we’re slamming it through.”
The proposal would also be reacting to the overuse of signs by one candidate during the last municipal election. Although several residents complained about the nuisance signage, most candidates have typically observed good judgement, says mayor Brian Jackson.
“A number of (council) members were very concerned about the signs in the last election,” he said. “That’s why this came forward; it was obnoxious. The public was concerned, and we tried to deal with it. In all the years I’ve been involved (in politics) in this municipality, I don’t think I’ve heard of a problem with signage, other than the last election. The timing of this report is unfortunate, but we should give
some direction. We have to have some tool to deal with this.”