Brampton is about to kick off its third election season in the timespan of a year and it’s only a matter of time before the election signs start rolling in. These unruly signs have long been a topic of conversation, and city council is considering banning them for good.

At a recent council meeting, Councillor Rowena Santos (Ward 1-5) brought forward a motion to have city staff report back on the feasibility and legality of banning campaign lawn signs throughout Brampton in all municipal, provincial, and federal elections.

Election signs pose a risk to the environment, as most of them end up in landfills, and given Brampton’s active stance against single-use plastics, Santos says Brampton should take a more proactive approach and ban signs too.

“Brampton should take a lead in the same way that we took the lead on the climate motion [and] in the same way we took the lead on looking at banning single-use plastics. Elections signs are probably the worst of those sorts of things,” says Santos. “I will argue as a campaign manager managing successful and unsuccessful campaigns for the past 12 years of my life, that campaign signs do not equate to votes.”

Not every council member sees eye to eye on the issue, Councillor Charmaine Williams (Ward 7-8) wants to keep election signs. “An election sign is the most fundamental way in which Brampton residents can express their political views, who they support [and] who they oppose. Let’s not take away their rights,” Williams said at the council meeting. “The suggestion that social media will replace election signs and campaign brochures is false logic.”

Councillor Michael Palleschi (Wards 2 and 6) is concerned about fairness for new candidates running in elections who need to gain name recognition to even the playing field with incumbents.

Santos, on the other hand, pointed out that the United Kingdom for example doesn’t rely heavily on election signs, and yet the country has a higher voter participation rate than Canada.

The city could also face challenges actually enforcing the bylaw. Director of Bylaw Services Paul Morrison told council that enforcing the city’s bylaws during the time of the election poses a problem to his department’s resources and bottom line.

“We actually have to take the time away from other activities such as parking enforcement and other bylaw offences to accommodate that,” said Morrison. Morrison also pointed out that investigating each sign would take a long time to document and to track down the offender — an effort that may not be worth the $40 fine. The process could take even longer if the fine is contested.

Ultimately the motion to study the possibility of banning election signs passed 7-4. Council will vote on the matter once staff reports back soon feasibility.

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