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Canmore looks to ban election signage on municipal property

“The political campaign sign bylaw will provide greater clarity to candidates running in any election that signs are only to be placed on private property"
Canmore Civic Centre 1
Canmore Civic Centre on Thursday (April 21). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – Election signs on municipal public property could be on their last legs in Canmore.

A public hearing will take place July 2 for a potential land use bylaw amendment, which, if approved, would have municipal, provincial, federal, school board and regional health authorities’ election signage banned from municipal-owned space.

The council direction was one of the first in the new term when Coun. Joanna McCallum brought the motion forward for the third time since becoming an elected official.

She previously brought forward similar motions in 2013 and 2017, but both were defeated.

She said, if passed, it would help level the “playing field for potential candidates” and put more focus on engaging with voters rather than relying on signage to get a person’s name out.

Mayor Sean Krausert added with fewer potential signs, it could also lead to “less fishing of signs out of wooded and river areas,” which is commonplace during elections.

In recent years, people campaigning have turned to online options such as websites, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Several continue to use mail campaigns and newspaper advertisements.

If changes to the land use bylaw are made, election candidates would still be able to have signs on private property – if the landowner consents – and provincially- and federally-owned land would be allowed. It would also necessitate all signage being removed 48 hours after an election.

The proposed bylaw emphasizes it can’t interfere “with the safety and convenience of pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.”

Coun. Tanya Foubert highlighted her preference would be to allow signage in “certain limited and specific strategic public locations,” since it allows some signage and controls any clutter of signs.

“It would also create a little more equity and accessibility for all types of people to a bit of the public realm to put a sign out in the public because door knocking may not be available to them,” she said, adding mobility issues or someone who’s immunocompromised may be impacted.

Council directed Town staff last year to prepare a bylaw to restrict municipal election signage on public property. They originally looked to limit allowable public spots to four areas, but council provided additional direction last year to not have those spots.

While concerns on election signs were voiced in the last municipal election, other issues such as cost to candidates, whether signs have any influence on an election and them being seen as a single-use item were raised by council.

The land use bylaw allows election signs on private and municipally-owned land. They’re allowed to be up to 0.5 square metres, but mobile signs that are painted or attached to a vehicle aren’t allowed.

A first offence fine is $50 and increases to $100 for a second fine and $250 for third and subsequent offences. The proposed bylaw would increase the fine to a minimum of $250. There could also be a $50 per day fee if the sign is impounded and stored by the Town.

“The political campaign sign bylaw will provide greater clarity to candidates running in any election that signs are only to be placed on private property,” stated a staff report.

Caitlin Miller, the Town’s protective services manager, said they would take an education-first approach to talk with candidates, ensure they understood information received from the returning officer after declaring their candidacy “make sure all the candidates had this information ahead of time and understanding of the bylaw.”

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