With just one vote making the difference at the council table, Comox council approved a bylaw Wednesday to allow political signs along boulevards fronting private property only, and prohibit political signs at all other public locations.
Last month, Coun. Tom Grant was contacted by Clive Ansley, a Comox Valley lawyer who represented Falun Gong practitioners in Vancouver.
Ansley supplied council with a letter, which stated the practitioners refused to dismantle structures that carried political messages in Vancouver in 2001, and upon refusal, Ansely filed a petition in the B.C. Supreme Court.
Following an appeal, the court found that the bylaw on which the City of Vancouver relied upon was unconstitutional and therefore of no force and effect because it prohibited the erection on public property of all structures bearing political content.
“I think one of the driving forces is that some councillors feel this is visual pollution so I hope that come November, that you’re not so hypocritical as to place visually polluting signs in our town,” noted Grant.
Coun. Russ Arnott and Coun. Ken Grant agreed with Tom Grant, who prior to the vote, stated their opposition to the bylaw.
“I do feel that (the signs) wasn’t such a nuisance that people were making it out to be. I think we’re grasping at some weak arguments as to why we should enforce this,” Arnott added.
“I think it’s totally ridiculous,” said Ken Grant. “I think this is an absolute exercise in social engineering and I think we should allow people to campaign the way they want to.
Couns. Patti Fletcher, Hugh MacKinnon and Marcia Turner noted their support of the motion.
“My intent was simply to give the public property respect and neutrality … in addition protecting the infrastructure that is occasionally damaged by these signs. My perspective is that the citizens of Comox were certainly more informed with their voting decisions than simply by the number of signs that are in Comox,” said Fletcher.
The motion passed by a 4-to-3 vote, with Fletcher, Turner, MacKinnon and Mayor Paul Ives voting in favour, and Arnott, Tom Grant and Ken Grant voting against.