Burlington man told to remove homemade political sign
WATCH: (June 6, 2014) A Burlington man is upset after being told by bylaw officers to remove a homemade political sign from his front lawn. Laura Zilke reports.
BURLINGTON – A Burlington resident says he is offended after being told by the city to remove a homemade political sign on his front lawn.
Louis Magyar is a retiree that has lived in his tidy bungalow since 1977.
He says he put the sign up on May 15, but got a warning on June 5 that the sign must come down.
“I am offended by somebody saying take it down” he says, “Tell me you don’t like it, that’s fine – you have the right – that’s why we have right here in Canada.”
The City of Burlington tells Magyar it received a complaint about the language on his sign.
In the midst of a provincial election campaign, Magyar put up his sign – written strategically in Progressive Conservative blue.
The by-law officer told Magyar that the offensive line was “Stupid is as Stupid Does, Go Ahead Vote Liberal”.
“It’s a quote from Forrest Gump, for God ‘sakes,” he says.
“There’s not a swear word there.”
In an email, a representative from the City of Burlington, Donna Kell, writes that personal signs are only allowed for three days.
“Most of the time, signs are not permitted on residential property. Years ago, the city developed a sign bylaw that includes the right for property owners to have a personal message board on their properties.
Often, messages pertain to birthdays, anniversaries or other significant events.”
The city bylaw does allow for political signs, however. This is where the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) believes Magyar may have an argument.
“In this case there is a good argument that this is an election sign” says Cara Zwibel, the Director, Fundamental Freedoms Program with the CCLA, “I think that’s open to different interpretations.”
People driving by the Magyar house honk and wave in support. A couple from Burlington say they drove by after hearing about the sign on a local radio show. They didn’t want to be named, but in unison, they said “Keep it – its freedom of speech.”
A neighbour for over 30 years, Dave Braid says Magyar had the sign on his lawn during the previous election, in 2011.
“Nobody complained then, “ he said.
“This isn’t upsetting anybody, other than the person that doesn’t like what’s on it.”
Magyar says he is not a card-holding member of the conservative party, but he does support it.
Just a few feet from his handmade statement is a political sign he requested from local PC candidate Jane McKenna.
According to the city, that sign is legal and can stay. If Magyar doesn’t remove his hand-made version by 12:54 p.m. this Sunday, Magyar could be fined up to $350 or face legal action.
“It’ll come down at 12:53” he says.
Magyar says he isn’t in a financial position to challenge the law in court. He did consider taking the sign down, then putting it back up in a different place on his lawn, but was told that too, would be illegal.
“I’ve been to countries where there is no freedom – and I can’t even do this?” he says emphatically.
“I’m not hurting anybody, nobody.”