This summary of feedback is based on comments received from members of the public at the consultation on July 16, 2014, 6:00 to 8:00 pm at City Hall, Committee Room 1.
Feedback by Topic
Time Period for when Election Signs may be Erected/Displayed
Some candidates expressed that the time period for when election signs may be erected/displayed should be longer than staff's proposal of 21 days prior to voting day for all federal, provincial and municipal elections. Current incumbents naturally have an advantage over new candidates, and a longer time period would provide a better opportunity for new candidates to get their name out to the public. Also, recognizing that a number of cultural and religious holidays fall in the month of October, some candidates were concerned that the Election Sign Period would be further reduced.
Placement of Election Signs
Staff were requested to:
- examine the feasibility of standardizing the placement of election signs on public property to specific designated spaces for all candidates, in an effort to minimize City time and resources spent on enforcing the Election Sign By-law
- clarify the regulations around where election signs may be erected/displayed on public property through clearer language in the by-law, photos/diagrams in the information package provided to candidates by the City Clerk's Office and in any future presentations made by staff on the requirements of the by-law
- consider the treatment of interior signs, such as those placed in windows, as well as signs hung on balconies
- clearly distinguish the difference between a Campaign Office Sign and an Election Sign in the by-law
Election Sign Fee
Some candidates expressed concern with staff's proposal of a $250 flat fee required to erect/display election signs and objected to its introduction in time for the 2014 Municipal Election. Most candidates have already made the decision to run for the upcoming election and this additional expense could make it difficult for those with limited funds, effectively providing an unfair advantage to candidates with 'deeper pockets'.
Staff were also questioned about the rationale behind requiring the flat fee for election signs placed outdoors on public and/or private property, as the current election sign deposit is only required for the placement of signs on public property. After staff's explanation, candidates understood that election signs are often moved to/from public/private property, meaning there are a significant amount of signs the City must track with significant costs that need to be partially recovered.
Candidates requested that should the flat fee be adopted, information regarding when the change takes effect, when fees are required to be paid, etc. should be clearly communicated to all candidates, and further, that the election sign fee should be permitted as a legitimate campaign expense.
Candidates also asked staff to contemplate if/how they would assess this fee for any candidate that has already paid the current $250 election sign deposit.
Removal and Storage of Unlawfully Erected/Displayed Election Signs and Fees
Candidates appreciated staff's proposal to provide more timely notification to candidates when their election signs have been seized for contravening the by-law. Candidates explained that their expenses on election signs are significant, and knowing when their election signs have been removed and providing them the opportunity to retrieve their election signs immediately, is important. Some candidates also requested that any fees assessed by the City for the removal of election signs outside of the Election Sign Period, should be permitted as part of a candidate's campaign expenses.
Waiver of Fees/Affidavits Process
Some candidates were concerned with staff's proposal of deleting the current waiver of fees/affidavits process as they felt it would be unfair to the candidates that adhere to the by-law and whose election signs are removed/re-located through no fault of their own. However, these candidates also recognized the challenge of determining fault, and understood staff's position that significant City resources are expended to administer and enforce the by-law, and in past elections, it appeared as though some candidates were simply relying on this process to get their fees automatically waived.
Election Sign Theft and Sabotage
Some candidates expressed concern about past experiences with election sign theft and sabotage. Candidates' legally placed election signs were being removed and re-located by another party (often by their competitor(s)) to locations prohibited in the by-law, and the challenge of actually witnessing the act made it difficult to lay a charge against the perpetrator.
Concern was raised that a candidate's lawfully erected election signs may still be removed by another party, stored, re-located and re-displayed after the Election Sign Period in an effort to penalize that candidate (where, as staff propose, a $25 per-sign fee will be assessed for election signs removed by the City outside of the Election Sign Period).
To address this issue, staff and candidates agreed that in instances where a candidate's signs are missing and/or believed to have been tampered with, the candidate should notify the City at which point staff will take the appropriate action to investigate matters on a case-by-case basis prior to assessing the per-sign fees that are applicable outside of the Election Sign Period.
Alternative Methods of Campaigning
Some candidates commented that in addition to erecting/displaying election signs, they also employ other methods to get their name out to the public. These candidates explained that they give out their business cards, distribute pamphlets/flyers, volunteer to causes in their community, etc., suggesting that other candidates may also want to consider alternative methods of campaigning. Low resource campaigns may find these alternative methods particularly useful.
Limiting the Number of Election Signs
One candidate expressed the need to curtail the use of election signs from an environmental perspective, and suggested the City look into the feasibility of restricting the number of election signs that may be erected/displayed per candidate.