| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
Size will matter when it comes to St. Albert’s October municipal election, but only along St. Albert Trail.
Council voted by a slim majority to prohibit candidates from placing election signs smaller than four feet by four feet in size on St. Albert Trail, with Couns. Wes Brodhead, Len Bracko and Mayor Nolan Crouse voting against.
A second motion to prohibit signs smaller than four feet square on roadways designated by the city – which were not named – was defeated. Another motion to permit small signs on residential properties was withdrawn.
Staff will now prepare a bylaw amendment that will return to council for approval later this year.
Coun Roger Lemieux brought the motions forward. He argued, both for St. Albert Trail and other major roadways in St. Albert, that small election signs are a blight on surrounding landscape, create a danger for candidates and passers-by, compete with signs from nearby businesses and are environmentally unfriendly.
“The business community is already in competition to promote their wares and the election signs just take away from that recognition,” Lemieux said. “But the four-by-four signs or larger would be allowed because they are basically maintenance free.”
Lemieux also said smaller signs aren’t fastened as securely to the ground and are more prone to vandalism.
Both motions were met with strong objection from the members of council who voted against them. Even Coun. Cathy Heron, who voted in favour of banning small signs on St. Albert Trail, voted against banning them anywhere else.
“I can’t vote in favour of it because there is a cost issue and I think we are infringing on some rights of potential candidates,” Heron said. “I commend you for this … but infringing on the right of a candidate to put their name out and advertise is not something we should be doing.”
Lemieux did not pursue this motion in isolation. Strathcona County has passed bylaws restricting where election signs can and cannot be placed. In past elections in St. Albert, voters have complained about the number of smaller lawn signs dotting major roads like St. Albert Trail.
But Brodhead argued the motion would simply make it more difficult for candidates who aren’t independently wealthy to run for office. He also pointed out the signs are only up for about 28 days, now every four years, compared to three years in between previous elections.
“From my perspective it just infringes on someone’s determination to run for council. I think we need to be as open as possible and the size of the sign is the factor,” Brodhead said.
“We’re saying you have to be pretty well-heeled to run for office in St. Albert.”
Lemieux argued that buying 10 larger signs is actually cheaper than buying 200 small signs, but Brodhead replied candidates with more money can just buy more large signs.
“What we have here is a simply a sign dimensions motion. It doesn’t limit the number of signs or where they are to be placed. If you’re really rich you can put up 1,000 signs if you wish, they just have to be four-by-four,” Brodhead said. “For the affluent in the community, (a ban) services their purpose.”