With municipal election fever gripping the province, Sooke residents will soon see election signs sprouting along roadways throughout the municipality.
The race to place those signs has, at times, had a competitive aspect as the most desirable locations for sign placement are available on a first-come, first- served basis.
Still, as some candidates recently discovered when they jumped the gun by erecting signs before the allowable date, there are still some rules governing election signs.
No signage is allowed prior to Sept. 22, at least along those roadways administered by the B.C. Transportation Ministry.
In Sooke, that means that the restriction applies to Sooke Road, but does not include Otter Point Road or other municipal roads, streets or boulevards where different rules are in effect, said Carolyn Mushata, Sooke’s chief electoral officer.
At least one candidate for Sooke council, Phil Rossner, had erected signs on Sooke Road but, when made aware of the regulations, committed to removing the signage until Sept. 22.
And, although the start date for signage may be different on municipal and Provincial roadways, other restrictions set out by the ministry do apply across the board.
For example, signs cannot be positioned any closer to the travelled lanes of traffic than standard traffic signs and cannot obstruct any traffic control devices.
But even properly placed signs cannot simulate any traffic control devices. That means that candidates will still be prevented from putting up a big, red, simulated stop sign with a campaign slogan saying “Stop…and vote for (fill in the name)”.
That would be breaking the law and the candidate would be forced to remove their sign.
Campaign signs are also prohibited from in any other way causing a traffic hazard and are not allowed on bridges, overpasses, tunnels or any other highway structures.
Brendan Phelps, a public affairs officer for the Transportation Ministry, said that in his experience, most candidates are reasonable about placing their signage, although some violations of the rules have occurred, necessitating the candidates to be contacted and the signs to be removed.
Another important rule to note involves signage by people other than those associated with the candidates.
Regulations state that signs must only be installed by an individual or organization that is registered with a municipality, Elections B.C. or Elections Canada to sponsor advertising, such as a political candidate, political party, registered advertising sponsor or an authorized participant in the election.
In other words, no matter how much a resident may oppose a certain candidate, unregistered individuals or groups are not allowed to place signs. Unless they, too, are running for office, they are not allowed to erect their own signs opposing that candidate.
All signage must identify the owner of the sign, and a B.C. telephone number or B.C. mailing address at which the owner may be contacted.
When the election is over, candidates are responsible for removing their signs. The ministry regulations say that signs must come down on provincial roadways by the day following the election. Candidates get a bit more time on municipal roadways where they have three days to remove the signage.
Violations of these regulations can result in the signs being removed at the owner’s expense.