Proposed changes to election signage rules in Chilliwack were front and centre at city hall Tuesday, as the provincial election looms ever closer.
Council debated elements of a new city bylaw focusing exclusively on election signs erected on private and public properties alike, to promote candidates and political parties during election campaigns.
Part of the idea behind the proposed changes was preventing “visual pollution” when signs stay up on the city landscape long after elections are over.
The city has received complaints over the years about election signs, including a couple earlier this month.
Staff proposed doubling the municipal fees for election sign deposits from $500 to $1,000, with a quicker timeframe for sign cleanup as a deterrent.
But after discussion on the proposed four amendments, introduction and three readings were given to a standalone election sign bylaw by council.
Council opted to keep the refundable deposit at the $500 mark, and keep a 10-day deadline for sign removal — regardless what type of property was in question.
Staff had recommended making it a standalone bylaw and using the “common sense” approach when applying it, with the suggestion of one sign per property.
A proliferation of election signs can create visual pollution, and that was part of the rationale for tackling the issue.
Coun. Jason Lum proposed keeping the deposit at $500 and the limit at 10 days for removal.
“The rationale being that I’ve heard some comments that it might dissuade people from being civically active,” he said.
Nobody wants to see the public discouraged from taking part in elections or showing their support for candidates, nor do they want the city to be too restrictive, Lum said.
Coun. Sue Attrill questioned the original proposal of limiting it to one sign per property.
“What if it’s a municipal election and they’re endorsing six candidates?” she asked.
That aspect was later dropped in the amended bylaw.
Other bylaws that were to be introduced, such as the sign bylaw that applies to highway billboards for example, were referred back to staff for consultation with groups such as the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board.
Final adoption should be at the April 2 council meeting.
“The most important thing ultimately is getting people out to vote,” Lum told the Progress after the meeting. “We need to get more people engaged in politics.”