An update to the municipal election sign bylaw was cause for significant debate around the council table on Monday, July 9.
At issue was a provision in the updated bylaw that would have restricted the placement of election campaign signs in rural areas to five metres from the edge of the travelled portion of the road. Previously the rules stated that signs must be 1.5 metres from the edge of the road.
“In rural areas, the proposed by-law permits the erection of election signs on municipal road allowances, so as long as they are more than five metres from the edge of the travelled portion of the road. This ensures that signs are not placed on the shoulder of roads, and allows for grass cutting in areas that could restrict visibility and hide animal movement close to the road,” read the staff report to council. “It is proposed that each candidate be permitted to erect signs at 50 metre intervals on municipal road allowances. This approach is similar to that in effect on County Roads, where signs must be eight metres from the edge of the paved portion of the road.”
For some members of council the provision was problematic.
“I believe we need an update. I believe we need to look at this, and make it modernized, we need to do something different, and I support that initiative. As it is written tonight, I cannot support this for the following reasons,” Councillor Tony Bell said.
Bell told council that he visited a rural sideroad with a tape measure in hand so that he could visualize where the five metre provision would require signs to be placed, and he wasn't convinced that five metres from the edge of the road was practical. Bell noted that requiring campaign volunteers to traverse ditches in long grass, and to potentially expose themselves to poison ivy in the process was concerning to him.
“I do not believe that having this restriction of five metres from the edge of the travelled portion of the road in a rural community can be put into practice,” Bell said.
Other members of council shared Bell's concerns, and after a significant amount of debate, council voted against the bylaw update in its entirety, however just a few minutes after the vote, Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield suggested that it wasn't wise to toss the entire bylaw update due to one provision, and he sought a compromise.
“Thus far all I have heard is the only clause in the sign bylaw that we really object to is the five metres from the travelled portion of the road. I would hate to throw out the whole recommendation for one clause, and I am just wondering if there is any way that council could arrive at a lesser number of metres and go with the rest of the recommendation,” Greenfield suggested.
Ultimately council agreed on an amendment to the recommendation that allowed for election signs on rural roads to be placed two metres from the edge of the travelled road surface.