Residents may no longer see a bundle of signs cluttering street corners in upcoming elections should city council approve new election rules being examined.
Prince Albert City Council's executive committee unanimously passed a recommendation from the Management Committee to bring forward a report in six months regarding a ban on election signs on public property alongside a few other Local Government Election Act tweaks.
A report on the subject explains how the city’s Portable Sign Bylaw can be amended to restrict where election signs are placed and enforce time limits on when signage can be erected and removed. These proposed amendments would affect all elections within city limits, not only the municipal and school boards elections. However, enforcement could be quite onerous for bylaw officers, according to the report. It also notes how the person who authorized the placement of the sign must be given an opportunity to remove the sign prior to the city.
Mayor Greg Dionne, who sits on the Management Committee alongside Ward 8 and 4 councillors Ted Zurakowski and Don Cody, defended the proposal, saying he himself prefers signs on private property as he views it as a small endorsement.
“When you someone on a street endorsing you, and the neighbours say, ‘Hey, Greg is endorsing that guy, well, he is a smart guy, I am going to vote for that guy,’” the mayor said. “To me, it is sort of an endorsement.”
Asked if he worried banning signs on public property would give the upper hand to certain candidates, Dionne was blunt in his reply: “At the end of the day it is the most popular [candidate] that wins.”
“And as long as you are all on the same playing field I can’t see the problem,” he added.
Also approved was an ask of the City Clerk, in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Association of City Clerks, to recommend the Minister of Government Relations amend the act to allow canvasing at polling places on election day to within 50 meters, over the current 100.
This comes due to the fact policing a 100-metre perimeter around a large polling centre, such as an area, can prove “onerous on the election staff of that specific poll.”
Also requested is an alignment of the terminology regarding homebound and personal care facilities between the Provincial and Local Government Elections Act, and to streamline the identification process for residents of care homes to allow administrators of the facility to simply vouch for residents.
Increasing the amount of remuneration for election workers and providing meal allowances in line with the city's policy is also under the microscope. This tweak would be included for consideration within the comprehensive 2020 Election Report when it is scheduled to come before city council for consideration. Typically, the city has not offered meals or refreshments during advance polls or on election day, and have instead requested staff bring their own lunches and snacks. Other municipalities do offer meals. Based on 15 polling places, plus five advance polling dates, implementing this amendment would cost approximately $4,720.
Supplying meals for advance polls, however, is not recommended as the poll is quite busy, and the time spent at the poll is less than four hours. A report said savings could be achieved by supplying simpler meals, such as sandwiches or pizza, or alternately, only providing light snacks and refreshments or remaining status quo. Increasing the reimbursement rates and for election officials will also be needed as minimum wage in the province has increased, according to agenda documents.
The next general election for Saskatchewan cities is currently scheduled for October 28, 2020.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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