Sturgeon County politicians will have to wait until at least Sept. 20 before putting up their election signs, county council has ruled.
County council approved its new election signage bylaw Feb. 9.
While this year’s municipal election was still months away (Oct. 18), candidates have been able to apply to run in it since Jan. 1 – a significant change from past elections, where candidates had to file their papers specifically on nomination day.
Sturgeon County’s land use bylaw says candidates must remove election signs within three days of an election, but does not specify when they can be first erected, said county corporate services director Jesse Sopko.
“A candidate could be nominated today, for example, and without regulation you could see election signs erected this early in the process,” he said.
Sopko recommended council follow the lead of many other communities and put limits on when election signs could go up in order to balance freedom of speech against the aesthetic impact of having election signs up for nine or 10 months at a time.
Under the law, election signs for a municipal election may not be raised in Sturgeon County prior to the close of nominations on nomination day, which this year means noon Sept. 20. The law says election signs could go up as early as 36 days before the close of polls for a federal election and 30 days before poll closure for a provincial one. Sopko said those limits reflect differences in the nomination periods for federal and provincial elections.
Election signs are otherwise regulated under the county’s land-use bylaw, which allows election signs to go up throughout the county without a permit provided they indicate the name of their sponsor; are not attached to fences, trees or utility poles; are placed with the landowner’s permission; and are removed within three days after an election.
Sopko said the law allows bylaw officers to remove and dispose of offending signs without notice or compensation, and to destroy any signs that have been impounded but not claimed within three days of the close of polls on election day. Anyone who violates this law could be fined $100, or $200 on subsequent offences. Sopko added this law is retroactive and would apply to any election sign already up in the county.
Coun. Patrick Tighe supported the law, saying residents have no desire to see American-style elections happen here.
“Shorter, in this case, is likely better.”
Morinville and St. Albert regulate election signs through their traffic bylaws, which include detailed rules on their permitted size and location. Morinville allows the display of election signs between noon on nomination day and 24 hours after the close of polls in municipal elections, and between noon on the date an election is called and 24 hours after the close of polls for federal or provincial elections. St. Albert’s election sign period is the same, except it lets candidates keep their signs up for 48 hours after polls closed.
Questions on the 2021 Sturgeon County election should go to [email protected].