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Some municipalities get head start on political advertising ahead of civic elections

Last Updated Sep 21, 2018 at 11:35 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Municipalities are responsible for governing when and where an election sign is placed

Township of Langley allows candidates to put up election signs when writ is dropped, which is also start of nominations

While different municipalities have own rules about election signs, they're still limited to campaign finance rule

TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY (NEWS 1130) – We’re still six weeks away from heading to the polls in B.C., but you may have already noticed some election signs popping up in your neighbourhood.

Some municipalities, like the Township of Langley, have different rules about when candidates can start to advertise.

According to the city’s bylaws, candidates can put up signs the day the writ is dropped. In the Township, that is the same day for the start of nominations, which Chief Election Officer Bob Wilson says was last Tuesday.

He explains Council “revamped” its sign bylaw a couple of years ago, creating a different ones for elections.

“And they tied the three elections together; the federal, provincial, and municipal elections,” he says. “Council, in mid-July, tried to change the bylaw to make it a little later and the council was too late. They couldn’t amend the bylaw that late.”

While different municipalities have their own rules, they are still limited to campaign finance rules, Wilson adds.

He also says many take advantage of being able to put signs up early.

“There is a lot of signs up in the Township of Langley, and when you into the City of Langley there aren’t any signs yet and I think Surrey doesn’t have signs out yet either.”

Candidates in Langley City will have to wait until later this week to put up signs.

So why is the Township different? Wilson says the intent of the bylaw was to make things consistent between all three elections.

He believes council will likely revisit the topic in the New Year.

Candidates are bound by a number of rules when it comes to where they can post signs.

“Nothing within 20 metres of an intersection, they can’t have any signs within a traffic island, traffic circle, or roundabout,” Wilson explains. “And of course, they can’t have any signs in front of any municipal property or any school district property.”

There are also size restrictions, and signs cannot have any flashing lights.

Where Elections B.C. stands

Governing when and where election signs can be put up is a municipal task, and something Elections B.C. does not oversee.

“There are guidelines from the Ministry of Transportation that may be applicable if they’re placed on a provincial highway, and local jurisdictions have the authority to make bylaws regarding where and when they are placed,” Andrew Watson with Elections B.C. says.

So in this case, if signs are put up before campaigns are officially underway, where do they fall within candidates’ finances? Watson says they fall under election expenses.

“It would be reported as part of their financial disclosure statement that all candidates are required to file with Elections B.C. after the election,” he tells NEWS 1130. “And if the signs are used during the official campaign period, which starts on September 22nd, that would count towards an expenses limit.”

If a sign was put up and taken down during the campaign, he adds the candidate will still report the expense of making it and having it up, but says it would not actually count toward their expense limit. That only applies during the official campaign period, which is until Oct. 20th.

The expense limit varies across the province.

“In jurisdictions with less than 10,000 people it’s a set number for mayor and council candidates; $10,000 for mayor and $5,000 for council candidates,” Watson says. “In election areas with populations over 10,000, it is calculated based on a per capita formula.”