Election sign law changed mid-stream
By Rick Vanderlinde Simcoe,com Oct 13, 2010 INNISFIL – A new election sign bylaw that was being broken by many candidates was altered in a close vote by council last week.
Innisfil council voted 4-3 to amend the bylaw so signs can be placed as close together as a candidate or property owner wants. Under the original bylaw, signs could not be within 15 metres of one another, a provision that was clearly being broken throughout the town.
Admitting the bylaw was virtually unenforceable, a slight majority of councillors decided to change the rule with about three weeks left in the campaign.
“I think council fell asleep at the switch on this one,” Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope said.
Ward 1 Coun. Peter Kmet was the only one to vote against the original bylaw, saying it was wrong for council to dictate how close signs can be placed to one another on private property.
“People are proud to have their signs out there; we should leave (regulating signs) alone,” said councillor and Ward 1 candidate Peter Kmet. “How much money have we spent on this in the last three years? We still can’t get it right.”
Kmet’s opponent in Ward 1, Doug Lougheed, agreed council shouldn’t change the bylaw midstream through an election, albeit for different reasons.
“What does amending this bylaw do at this point, other than make anyone involved feel better about breaching it in the first place?” Lougheed said. “For whatever reason, candidates feel it is justified to violate a legal bylaw. What about the guy that contravenes another bylaw? Is he going to get the same free pass that current and potential members are giving themselves?”
Ward 7 Coun. Lynn Dollin agreed, saying “This is closing the barn door once the horse is gone. The next council should deal with the bylaw.”
All municipal candidates were called to a meeting last month and were asked to be flexible when reporting violations of the bylaw, which essentially restricted how many signs could be placed on a residential lawn.
“We were brought into the same room and told there would be a gentlemen’s agreement; it’s quite obvious that wasn’t adhered to at all,” said councillor and deputy mayoral candidate Dan Davidson. “I don’t feel we have the right to tell people what they can do on their lawn.”
Councillors Paul Wardlaw, who is not running for re-election, Kmet and Dollin all voted against changing the bylaw at this time.