Is it time to ban election campaign signs?
Published Tuesday, July 16, 2019 8:45AM EDT
The federal election is just over three months away – but if one Toronto-area politician has her way, it might be hard to tell in her city.
Like some other Canadian cities, Brampton, Ont. already bans election signs from being placed on public property.
City councillor Rowena Santos wants to take things a step further and extend the ban to cover the entire city, including residential properties.
"It's incredibly expensive to the campaigns; it's incredibly expensive to enforce; it's bad for the environment," she said on CTV's Your Morning Tuesday.
Santos said election season sees Brampton candidates devolve into a "full-out sign war," with "thousands and thousands" of campaign signs ultimately winding up in the trash.
It isn't just the environmental factors that have her wanting to bring an end to the tradition of placing signs for supported candidates in front of homes and businesses. She also thinks it could help level the playing field for new candidates.
According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, incumbent candidates win the majority of political races in the province. Most incumbents are able to re-use signs from past campaigns, while new challengers have to shell out for an entire sign array. Competing with an onslaught of signs from a veteran opponent could make it more difficult for new candidates to obtain name recognition with voters.
A Columbia University study from 2016 found that campaign signs do boost the electoral fortunes of candidates who use them, although the effect is reduced when the signs are extremely partisan in nature.
Santos sees other positives in eliminating election signs, too. Bylaw officers would be freed from having to inspect signs and enforce the rules around them, giving them more time to deal with other issues.
Beyond that, she suspects doing away with signs might lead to a more issues-oriented campaign, as candidates looking to get voters to remember their names will have to find other ways of doing it.
"Candidates would have to focus on the most persuasive tool, which is door-knocking," she said.
Santos' motion to enact a citywide ban on election signs will be voted on by Brampton council at a later date.