By Gagandeep Ghuman
When David Jones first ran for elections eight years ago, making some creative election signage was a no-brainer.
It was, after all, the easiest and one of the most cost effective ways of getting his name out in the community. It still remains, he says, one of the best ways to reach out to the public as they drive around the community, perhaps with municipal elections on their mind.
“Yes, it is an ugly mess for a certain period of time with the signage but it’s an effective way to get your name out there,” he says.
That is why he is urging caution to newly elected West Vancouver councillors who will be debating soon on how to curtail election signage in the community.
It was in December that Councillor Craig Cameron brought forward a motion asking the staff to bring back options to limit the number, size and location of signage for future local elections.
Cameron didn’t respond to questions from the Global Canadian, but his motion called upon council to curtail signs because of the economic, environmental and aesthetic impacts on the District of West Vancouver and its residents.
But Jones says the new policy is going to favour those who have name recognition, and have been in the council for a longer period of time. “It looks like they are just making it easier to get re-elected,” he said laughing.
Jones says there is an economic component to the signage as well. “To put a couple of signs, you are looking at may be a $1000. If you have to do a mailing campaign or an advertising campaign, you are easily looking at $10,000. Good and creative signage can be the cheapest way to get your name out in the community,” he said.
West Vancouver’s plans to curtail signage isn’t sitting well with Gabrielle Loren either. Loren ran for West Vancouver council for the first time and says the policy, if implemented, would be a setback for candidates like her and would clearly favour the incumbents.
“Our district loves to ram stuff without any consultation and there has been no consultation on this change that just goes to favour those who have been in the council for a longer period of time–David Jones
“You are giving incumbents leg up with a policy like that, and cutting back on the civic and political conversations those signs can start in the elections,” she says.
Loren says it is common knowledge that name recognition comes with repetition and election signage gives every candidate a chance to get their message out to the community. Loren says she is also concerned on how this policy could be implemented in a practical way to ensure everyone gets the critical exposure they need.
“If you centralise where the signage can be placed, then it’s possible your sign is behind three other people. And who is to say which voters are going to see which sign. You are taking away the ability to reach the voters,” she said.
Loren says election signage rules need to be uniform for every municipality, and bringing this new policy in West Vancouver would do nothing but stack the odds against new candidates like her. First time councillor Sharon Thompson also believes the policy would certainly give incumbents an unfair advantage.
“As much as we’d like to think we are above the need for signage, the public does respond and it does impact their decisions,” she said. Thompson said Elections B.C. has a well thought out policy on elections and it has so far worked well in the municipalities.
“As much as we’d like to think we are above the need for signage, the public does respond and it does impact their decisions-Sharon Thompson
“I don’t agree we should get into the minutia of how big, how many etc. I am more inclined to think status quo or none at all-like Bowen island,” she said.
Out of 25 candidates in the recent election, 24 candidates took out signs permits and installed 2575 signs. Both City of North Vancouver and District of North Vancouver has no restriction when it comes to the number of signs, there are other municipalities that place some restrictions on number of signage.
Meantime, Jones says crucial decision shouldn’t be taken without community consultation. “The district loves to ram stuff without any consultation and there has been no consultation on this change that just goes to favour those who have been in the council for a longer period of time,” he says.