In the end, about two-thirds of Kingston city council voted in favour of a bylaw banning election signs on public property.
Election signs are no longer allowed on road allowances in the city, including utility poles and any other structures contained in the road allowance.
During the council debate, Coun. Ryan Boehme expressed concern that the ban gives the incumbent an advantage.
“We take away a challenger’s ability to use public space to advertise themselves,” Boehme said.
“This seems like it will discourage new candidates.”
Dissenting councillors, meanwhile, raised concerns about freedom of expression and the steep fines in the bylaw.
An individual convicted of violating the bylaw could face a fine up to $10K for a first offence and up to $25K for subsequent offences.
Trillium district councillor Robert Kiley, however, disagrees with many of the concerns raised at last nights council meeting.
Kiley sits on the Administrative Policy committee that drafted the bylaw with city staff.
Signs, he says, are expensive and can serve as a deterrent to people considering a run for public office.
“Both experience and scholarship tells us the only thing that actually wins elections is not even money, it’s knocking on doors,” Kiley said.
The first test for the bylaw is coming quickly, with a federal election this fall.
Liberal M.P. for Kingston and the Islands Mark Gerretsen says it could hurt some candidates as far as getting name recognition, but agrees campaign resources could be better spent elsewhere than on signs.
“A lot of money is wasted on signs,” Gerretsen said. “A lot of volunteer hours are wasted on signs.”
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Gerretsen, also a past councillor and Kingston mayor, feels if all candidates abide by the new bylaw, the impact should be fairly neutral.
“It’s not going to be particularly advantageous or a detriment as long as it’s even across the board,” he said.
The bylaw does not apply to roads under the Ministry of Transportations jurisdiction in the city’s boundaries.
That list includes Highway 401, Highway 15 north of the 401 and Highway 33 between Collins Bay Road and Coronation Boulevard.