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Why one community has severely restricted provincial campaign signs

Last Updated Jun 15, 2017 at 4:15 pm PDT

FILE - B.C. Legislature in Victoria. (Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Quesnel limits the number of campaign signs on public land as election nears

One BC city votes to reduce how many signs politicians are allowed to hammer into the ground

QUESNEL (NEWS 1130) – Like the old song goes… sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

The provincial election call yesterday unleashed campaign workers across BC, pounding in election signs on public land. But one city in the Cariboo has placed strict limits on candidates, resulting in a lot of positive feedback from local voters.

“We have restricted political signage on public property within the city limits to only six sign frames per candidate,” explains Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson. “We are not restricting signs on private property. This is only on public property and for all elections — municipal, provincial and federal.”

Simpson says the city was reviewing sign bylaws when it was noted that there were restrictions for private businesses, not-for-profit organizations and even for private citizens putting on garage sales.

“The only class of citizens that gets away with unfettered rights to pollute the public space are politicians,” he tells NEWS 1130. “Somebody pointed out to us that they felt that was patently unfair. So in response to a lot of complaints about how crazy political campaigns have become with respect to signage on public space, we decided to look at the minimum number you’d need to have full exposure in our community.”

Quesnel is not a big city, so it was decided six signs was enough. “If they want more signs than that, then they have to connect with voters. If they get the voter’s permission, then they can expand their signage on private property in direct correlation with the support they’re getting in the community.”

Simpson adds there has been a lot of positive feedback. “Many say it’s about time. People don’t like their public spaces, their parks, their boulevards and their access to malls and commercial spaces all polluted with political signs for the duration of a campaign. They think it’s quite ludicrous.”

Political candidates were also canvassed and Simpson says there was no negative feedback. It looks as if the local campaigns will adhere to Quesnel’s sign bylaw.

In other cities, provincial election signs have already sprouted up quickly, and one marketing expert says it’s no surprise.

“Election signs go two ways. They can irritate the hell out of people when you’ve got too many of them and consumers miss the message in all the clutter,” explains Professor Lindsay Meredith with SFU’s Beedie School of Business. “But they can work positively if they are strategically placed. They boost recall and there’s a secondary effect — if you see a lot of signage around, it looks like an awful lot of people must like this guy.”

Meredith says a little discretion goes a long way. “If you screw this up and start cluttering way too much, you can annoy people and get some serious backlash. Electioneers, be careful where you put them.”

British Columbians go to the polls on May 9th.