Election signs allowed on public land: North Cowichan council

Election signs will continue to be allowed on municipal lands in North Cowichan

Election signs will continue to be allowed on municipal land in North Cowichan.

The municipality’s council decided in a close 4-3 vote at its meeting on March 1 to defeat Coun. Al Siebring’s motion for the regulation of the display of temporary election signs on municipal properties within North Cowichan.

Siebring said the placement of election signs is “getting out of control” and he wanted some regulations laid down as to their placement in the municipality before this spring’s provincial election gets into full swing.

He said it’s about limiting “visual pollution” in North Cowichan.

“I’m as guilty as everyone else when it comes to these signs at election times,” Siebring said.

“But I’d like to see them regulated on places like traffic circles and boulevards. That doesn’t mean that I want them banned, but regulated where we have jurisdiction. They would also still be continued to be allowed in places like along the highways and on private properties with no interference from us.”

Coun. Maeve Maguire agreed, stating that allowing free rein for all candidates to place signs where they want on municipal properties “doesn’t feel democratic”.

“There does seem to be a discrepancy between candidates who can afford many more signs, and signs of better quality, than those who can’t,” she said.

“It’s not an even playing field.”

But Coun. Kate Marsh had a different viewpoint of the issue.

“I hate these signs too, but if you’re a candidate that is not as well known as others, these signs are important for them to get their names out there,” she said. “These election campaigns usually last only about 30 days so I feel it’s something that we have to live with.”

Coun. Rob Douglas said there are other ways to level the playing field between candidates than limiting election sign locations, including limiting campaign spending and the amount of donations candidates can receive from unions and corporations.

“I don’t think that prohibiting signs is the way to do it,” he said. “It’s so hard to get people out to vote as it is and signs can play a role in getting people to the polls.”

Mayor Jon Lefebure also said regulating elections signs on municipal property wouldn’t be democratic. “All candidates should be provided with the opportunity to advertise that they are running,” he said.

“The thought of removing signs from municipal properties frightens me.”