City takes first step to change rules for election signs

By Kirk Winter

Mayoral candidates Andy Letham, Brian Junkin, and Gord James squared off in the last municipal election. There could be three elections in 2022.

With the possibility of a federal, provincial and municipal election in 2022, council has unanimously voted in principal to update the by-law currently in place regarding the size, content and placement of candidates’ signs anywhere in the city.

City clerk Cathie Ritchie and deputy clerk Joel Watts presented council with their recommendations in written form. These recommendations were motivated by their experience and the public complaints that emanated from the 2018 municipal election.

Homemade signs like this one would not be permissible under the new bylaws, except on private property.

“The election sign by-law was an area of concern,” the report stated, “as issues were raised by candidates and members of the public. The 2018 municipal election generally saw compliance with candidates and third party advertisers’ election signs…The number of complaints made to Municipal Law Enforcement in 2018 regarding election signs was 16.”

To address these concerns raised by members of the public and questions of clarity requested by candidates the following amendments to the currently existing by-law were proposed by Ritchie and Watts and accepted by council:

  1. “Incumbent” shall only be used if the candidate holds the current office.
  2. “Re-elect” shall only be used if the candidate holds the current office.
  3. “Elect again” may be used if the candidate was elected to the same office before.
  4. City of Kawartha Lakes branding will not be allowed on any election signs.
  5. To accommodate, particularly for the upcoming municipal election, seasonal residents becoming familiar with the candidates running, signs will be allowed to be put on public property sixty days before an election and on private property ninety days before an election.
  6. The maximum sign size will be 1.5 square metres per side.
  7. Maximum size height shall not exceed 2.0 metres above the surrounding ground.
  8. There will be a 1 metre separation distance between signs.
  9. No candidate’s sign may directly obstruct another candidate’s legally placed lawn sign.
  10. Election signs for candidates shall only be placed within the geographic jurisdictions of the office of election, with the only exception being vehicle signs.
  11. All election signs must be removed within five days following the voting day of the election.
  12. All election signs shall be stable, vertical, upright, legible and made of resilient material.
  13. All election signs must not be faded, soiled or unreadable at the time of installation.
  14. All election signs must be installed in a cautious and safe manner.
  15. All election signs must be produced and printed in a manner accepted as “good workmanship” in the trades concerned.
  16. Homemade and handmade signs shall only be placed on private property.

The clerks wrote that they had looked at other alternatives including the ban of signage on all public property.

“This approach was not considered due to general lack of options for visible campaign advertising, and to address the unique awareness needs of the large wards and districts within Kawartha Lakes,” the clerks wrote.

The clerks also contemplated a “sign deposit” as a “reasonable means to ensure that candidates and third party advertisers remove their election signs following the election. Any illegally place election signs collected by municipal staff would be held at the nearest public works depot. Following the election, when candidates and third party advertisers submit their financial statements any election signs not collected from the depots would be reduced at a set rate from the deposit supplied.”

While council did not favour a deposit as such, they did approve the clerks’ suggestion of a “$20.00 fine for each sign the city has to pick up after the election and store. Amounts owing under this provision may be recovered by legal actions or in a like manner as municipal taxes.”

New wording added to the proposed by-law also states that signs left after ten days at city depots become the property of the city.

A brief discussion ensued after the presentation of the proposed by-law changes with Clerk Ritchie saying, “We consulted with many departments while considering these by-law changes. We spoke to the manager of municipal law enforcement, the director of public works and the director of community services. This update is the product of public complaints regarding signage.”

Councillor Doug Elmslie wanted to know what level of government controlled the rules for signage, what some of the complaints were and would this by-law also impact provincial and federal election signs.

“The municipality determines rules regarding election signs,” Ritchie responded, “and our feedback was there were too many signs and they were too large. This by-lay will apply at all three levels of elections,” Ritchie said.

Elmslie suggested that with the potential of three elections coming in 2022, “these new rules need to be well publicized and to expect many complaints due to sign fatigue.”

A final vote on this new sign by-law is expected at the next regular council on April 20.

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