Wasaga Beach has walked back several changes to its bylaw governing municipal election signs.
Senior municipal bylaw officer Doug Vincent told councillors during a special council meeting Aug. 2 that changes to the bylaw earlier this year to include advertising were “made in haste,” and in response to new rules established earlier this year by the province for third-party advertisers.
A third-party advertiser is required to register with the municipality, submit financial documents related to spending, and adhere to a spending limit.
Third party advertisers are also required to follow sign bylaw rules.
Activities that do not involve spending money, such as discussions or expressing an opinion about a candidate are not considered to be third party advertising.
Vincent said it was an “unforeseen circumstance … that we inadvertently prohibited any type of political advertising until eight weeks before the election.”
He said his department would only normally get involved to regulate signs, which are not permitted until eight weeks prior to election day; this year’s municipal election date is Oct. 22.
However, he said, there have been social media pages, posters, and advertisements from candidates, and “it was never the intention … to restrict that process, which is the democratic process, by putting a timeline on it.”
Vincent said his department had been following up on complaints, and had asked the parties involved to abide by the rules, and charges were not laid.
He said the oversight was discovered through the investigation of the complaints.
Coun. Sylvia Bray acknowledged she had advertised a campaign fundraising event, and was visited by bylaw officers as a result.
She expressed a concern the changes made to the bylaw previously were “stamping” on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and said council should have had no role in restricting the timing of the campaign period.
Councillors Joe Belanger and Bonnie Smith spoke in favour of keeping the rules as is; Belanger said as far as he was concerned, the bylaw was not being enforced prior to council making the decision to amend it.
“I have personally adhered to the bylaw, and maybe have been disadvantaged because of that,” Belanger said.