Photo by Blackburn London

Proposed Election Sign Changes Watered Down

New election signs rules in London may not end up being as strict as first pitched by the city.

The corporate services committee unanimously agreed Tuesday to refer the bylaw report back to city staff to loosen the rules, albeit slightly, around sign placement during a campaign.

Staff had been recommending a restriction that would stop a candidate from erecting signs until the close of the nomination period. For next year’s municipal election that would be at the end of July. But Councillor Josh Morgan proposed an amendment, that quickly gained the support of his colleagues, which would allow private property owners to post signs sooner.

“There is no reason why people shouldn’t be able to put up a sign supporting a candidate on their own property after that candidate has filed the nomination,” said Morgan. “I see the difference and the merits of restricting it along the roadways, that’s public space and where people travel and that is where we get the complaints. We aren’t getting a lot of complaints about people’s private lawns during elections.”

That amendment could see signs start popping up on private lawns as soon as May 1 for the civic vote.

According to the staff report, the most common complaint related to election signs is the length of time they are displayed. Their proximity to intersections and interference with driver sight lines were also areas of concern.

“I think it balances the public comments that we have heard about sign pollution. It allows for those who want to display on their private property, as soon as a candidate is nominated, their support for that candidate and it provides a shortened period of time on the public roadways,” said Morgan. “It’s still a full three months that people can put those signs up but not quite as long as what would have been allowed previously, which would have been double that.”

In addition to reducing sign pollution, the proposed bylaw changes would limit the same candidate to one sign every 10 metres and restrict signs from being placed outside of the ward or riding where the candidate is running for office.

City staff will also report back on safety techniques for campaign volunteers who will be measuring to ensure the signs meet the seven metre setback from intersections. Councillors voiced concerns that people wanting to abide by the rules could come dangerously close to the road while measuring.

It is likely that information would be shared with candidates at information sessions slated for the fall.

“The idea here is to really help candidates and keep people safe. These are good adjustments,” said Committee chair Paul Hubert.

The amended bylaw would apply to candidates running in municipal, provincial, and federal elections.