Saanich is reducing the maximum election sign size and the time they can be up.
The decision comes two years after complaints about civic election signs on municipal property and the staff time needed to police infractions.
Given a few options to choose from by staff – one would have prohibited signs on municipal lands, including boulevards – council went with none of them. Instead they chose to limit sign size to four-foot-by-four-foot, thus eliminating four-by-eight signs, and reduced the number of days they can be up before general voting day from 44 to 28. The votes on both changes were split.
The four-by-eight signs will still be allowed on Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) lands, which has jurisdiction over highway right of ways. The 28 days policy also brings Saanich in line with MoTI election sign regulations.
The changes do not affect placement of signs for provincial or federal election campaigns, which tend to have far fewer candidates.
At the Oct. 5 meeting, the issue of whether to allow civic election signs at all on municipal lands seemed to get lost in discussions around maximum sizes, the environmental impact of plastic signs and how election signs are a critical element of democracy.
At one point Coun. Colin Plant chided his colleagues for a seeming rejection of the information gathered by staff in response to council’s 2018 request for options. He attempted to amend the four-by-four foot motion to limit size to two-by-two signs, and received support from councillors Judy Brownoff, Rebecca Mersereau and Nathalie Chambers, who had voiced a desire to eliminate the signs from municipal property.
Coun. Zac de Vries and Mayor Fred Haynes both spoke about signs being cost effective and a good way to build name and face recognition with the public, especially for new candidates.
“Elections are a time to celebrate democracy,” added Haynes. “In November we have Remembrance Day to remember those who laid down their lives for democracy.”
Speaking to the report’s section on the disposable nature of election signs, veteran council campaigners Susan Brice and Brownoff each said they’ve recycled theirs many times. Addressing the four-by-eight signs which take up more space and sometimes get placed on boulevards in front of homes that do not support the candidate, Brownoff said she no longer uses the handful of four-by-eight signs she owns.
The changes will be written into the district’s Election Signs on Municipal Property policy.