Red Deer City Council curbs the profusion of election signs

Councillors differ on what’s free speech vs. ‘visual blight’

Red Deer motorists could notice far fewer roadside election signs in the lead-up to this fall’s municipal election.

Seeking to reduce “visual blight,” Red Deer City Council restricted the number of election signs candidates can post on each approved stretch of public boulevard.

Under the new rules, each candidate will be able to post only one sign advertising his/her candidacy in each of the approved public roadside zones — such as the intersection of 32nd Street and Spruce Drive, or along stretches of Taylor Drive, 32nd Street or Ross Street.

Mayor Tara Veer, Coun. Frank Wong and Coun. Ken Johnston had argued against this limitation, saying it restricts free speech and gives advantage to candidates who can afford to make their one sign very large.

But the majority of council did not agree.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said candidates have a variety of ways of getting their names out to the public, including asking landowners if they could put their signs up on private properties.

One sign, per candidate, per zone, is much more fair than allowing individuals erect a dozen signs advertising their candidacy all along a single stretch of civic roadway, said Coun. Lawrence Lee. “That’s not equitable.”

City council also voted to reduce the number of approved municipal signage locations in the city to 33 spots from a previous 37 — mostly removing ones along areas of construction.

And they decided to shorten the length of time election signs can be displayed. Instead of starting to put them up on Sept. 1, candidates will now have to wait until nomination day.

Coun. Buck Buchanan said a profusion of election signs can be distracting to motorists, “so shorter’s better.” Coun. Paul Harris felt this could also reduce incidents of vandalism.

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