Innisfail plans to beef up its election advertising rules after a mayoral candidate ruffled feathers by posting a sign last month.
Glen Carritt said he left a Dec. 14 council meeting that approved a bylaw to reflect the province’s new election regulations that allow candidates to file their nomination papers after Jan. 1, instead of only beginning six weeks before the election as in the past.
Carritt said that he was left with the impression that all types of electioneering from door knocking to posting signs could begin then too.
The town says that an existing policy remains in effect that bars sign posting until 45 days before the election.
Carritt disagrees and argues the 45-day window should have been included in the latest bylaw if that was meant to be the ongoing practice.
“I thought other people were going to be putting signs up. I wasn’t doing it to break any bylaws or anything like that,” said Carritt of posting his sign at the Innisfail Auction Market next to Highway 2.
“I was doing it to beat people to the punch because I wanted to show people I was working hard out here.”
The early sign posting generated some debate around town and councillors received complaints from some residents.
The issue came back before council and it was confirmed that town policy prevents posting signs until 45 days before the Oct. 18 election.
However, enforcing the policy is another matter.
Town administration told council at its March 22 meeting a legal review of the sign bylaw found there was little the town could do to ensure elections signs were not posted on private property, although the town could restrict signs on its property.
Council voted to bring a draft bylaw back to council that will include sign regulations and penalties for those who break the rules.
Other municipalities, such as Red Deer, dictate when and where signs can be posted through bylaws with penalties for non-compliance.
Carritt, who has since removed the sign, which had been damaged by wind, said he will argue his case at the next council meeting.
During the last council debate on the issue, Coun. Danny Rieberger said the policy was not as strong as it could be.
“It’s unfortunate that we even have to do this. The expectation if you have a policy that people would respect that policy but evidently that was done in a simpler time when people respected things.”
Carritt resigned as a councillor in January.
An independent review concluded he was guilty of 29 of 36 code of conduct violations during his time on council.