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Toronto councillor wants shorter window for election signs

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, right, pictured during a debate over whether to ban shark fin products on October, 13, 2011.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Toronto politicians are contemplating a shorter life-span for election signs under proposed rules that would would limit their use to two weeks before election day and require candidates to pay the city $125 for the right to put them up.

The proposal will be considered next week by city council and would take effect before this October's municipal election. If approved, it also would apply to federal and provincial campaigns in Toronto, city staff said.

Toronto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who on Monday introduced the idea of shortening the period to 14 from 25 days, called election signs an "outdated technology."

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"Nowadays, all of us can deliver flyers door-to-door, we can have websites, we can Tweet people, we can Twitter, we can Instagram," he said. "Signs are really out of date and old-fashioned. I'd rather have none of them."

He denied that the change favours incumbents, saying that because of technology, "it's very easy now in this world of instant communication to get your name out instantly."

Mayor Rob Ford disagreed, telling reporters he will not support the recommendation passed by the city's standards and licensing committee.

"I don't think it is fair for the people that aren't in office to have just 14 days to get their name out there," Mr. Ford said.

The mayor accused incumbents who support the change of wanting "the upper hand."

"It is going to be hard for me to support, say I want a bigger advantage than my opponents, which obviously it gives me," he said.

Mr. De Baeremaeker said he thinks even 14 days is too long, and that residents don't choose who to vote for based on signs.

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"I'm sure we've all driven down a street where we see five signs on one lawn. It's not an expression of freedom, it's just a very nice person who says 'anyone who comes to my house, I'll put a sign on my lawn.'"

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is not a member of the committee, said councillors should not be tinkering with the rules so close to voting day.

"I don't believe that now's the time to regulate that, so close to an election. If you're going to make any changes, to do it days before an election comes into play doesn't seem to be fair," he said.

He also challenged Mr. De Baeremaeker's assertion that signs don't make a difference. "I do think signs matter in an election campaign, and for good or ill, they do influence local campaigns, " he said.

The new mandatory charge would be used to partially offset the city's costs for policing the use of election signs and the removal of signs that are put up against the rules.

As well as election signs, candidates are allowed to put up signs with their name on their campaign headquarters at any time during the election period, which began in January, said Mark Sraga, the city's director of Investigation Services. Candidates are permitted to put up election signs on their campaign headquarters 90 days before voting day, he said.

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Toronto City Hall bureau chief



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