If you’re wondering why you’re not seeing forests of election signs at Surrey intersections as federal candidates compete for your vote, it’s intentional.
Last May, Surrey city council approved a ban on election signs on all public property and highways after the removal of illegally placed signs cost the city a pretty penny last fall.
The city estimates it spent $160,000 removing roughly 1,800 illegally placed signs in the 2018 Surrey civic election. That figure factors in labour, equipment, disposal and administration. Meantime, only $8,600 was collected in fees related to the removal of the signs.
“Basically, we’re not allowing any signage within the City of Surrey right-of-way,” explained Rob Costanzo, Surrey’ general manager of corporate services. “So not on medians, boulevards or any city parkland. No public property whatsoever. Signs must be contained to private property only.”
Costanzo noted the city will no longer be storing signs that have been removed. Previously, city staff would take signs to a city facility and candidates could retrieve them, for a fee.
Now, any signs found in contravention of the city’s new rules will be removed and destroyed, Costanzo explained.
“We’re just not going there anymore. It’s an impact and a burden to our taxpayers,” Costanzo told the Now-Leader.
So far, Costanzo said the city has removed “a number” of signs belonging to candidates running in the Oct. 21 federal election.
“But compared to previous elections, be it municipal, provincial or federal, it’s been a complete change to what was done before.”
In May when council discussed the ban, Councillor Brenda Locke said there are “so many great reasons” to prohibit the signs in this way.
“First of all, the cost to Surrey to manage election signs is getting cost prohibitive and it’s actually kind of silly,” she said at the time. “Litter and waste and all the other things that go along with sign games and sign wars that happen in elections. I’m very supportive of this for that reason. The most important, of course, is to get rid of all of the signs that end up littering our streets and in our landfill. They are traffic disruptors.”
Mayor Doug McCallum said last May that he, too, was happy to support the changes.
“I think during the campaign we indicated that if we did get elected we would bring this sign bylaw into force in Surrey. The criticism that we received during the campaign, or I can say myself anyways, on signs, was horrific. There was many, many complaints,” McCallum said.
“But I think the most important thing we felt very strongly is so many of the signs were a safety concern at our intersections. Certainly as I drove around the community and seeing all the signs at major intersections, a lot of them blocking the view of the cross streets and so forth, it was a real danger,” he added.
In a report to council, city staff noted the proliferation of election signage during campaigns is “both distracting to motorists and places a significant burden on City resources, at the expense of the taxpayers, to ensure compliance.”