Election Accusations More Damaging Than Anti-Gay Billboard, Says CK Mayor

Mayor Randy Hope. June 4, 2018. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

Chatham-Kent’s mayor says a recently erected anti-gay billboard within the municipality does not promote hate and is merely “someone expressing free speech.”

It didn’t take long for the homophobic billboard at Kent Bridge Rd. and Countryview Line to raise the ire of people on social media after it went up on Wednesday.  However, CK Mayor Randy Hope said there’s nothing he can do about the sign, which reads “God says no to homosexuality and abortion!”

A billboard recently put up at Kent Bridge Rd. and Countryview Line with and offensive message to the gay community. Aug. 23, 2018. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

A billboard recently put up at Kent Bridge Rd. and Countryview Line with and offensive message to the gay community. Aug. 23, 2018. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

“I don’t take away anybody’s right to express their viewpoint,” Hope said, adding he does not believe the message advocates hate. “Who am I to say what is defamatory or demeaning. That’s not my jurisdiction.”

Hope said he saw a picture of the billboard on Twitter and has since ensured the sign was put up legitimately, and added that a proper permit was obtained.

Following an announcement event on Thursday regarding a Whyte’s manufacturing plant setting shop in Wallaceburg, Hope was asked if he thought the billboard would deter companies from coming to the municipality.

“No, because I’ll tell you what really is troublesome,” Hope said. “When you prep for this [Whyte’s] announcement today and people are mocking the company saying it was an election ploy, that has more damaging impact about what a company feels about a community than someone expressing free speech. I had no say as to when the timing of this was going to go.”

Hope said he wanted to make the announcement in January, but the company wanted to wait because it was still in negotiations.

“I had to respect the company’s wishes,” Hope said. “The company tells me the date that they want to make the announcement when their house is in order and I only show up when they tell me to. This [event] was not paid for and done by Chatham-Kent. This was done by Whyte’s Pickles who have set the stage for today’s announcement.”

BlackburnNewsCK.com previously spoke about the billboard with CK Pride Association President Marianne Willson, who said she takes offense to the billboard as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.  She adds that it paints an unappealing picture of the municipality, which will most likely dissuade businesses looking to invest here.