Community Soapbox: Election Signs

election signs are trash, Kingston, Ontario
“Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign”

Obviously the citizens of Kingston can read the signs. They are being plastered around the city at a rate that matches a bad case of poison ivy or the chicken pox at a kid’s birthday party. When does the election sign turn from a promotional item to an annoyance? We are just over a month away from Election day and I am already sick and tired of the sea of red and white littering every intersection in town.

There is something I have always liked about the Kingston scenery and taking an afternoon drive through the busy streets. Taking in all the beautiful buildings, the infrastructure and the green space. Why is it legal for a stake to be driven through the heart of the land I pay taxes for?

While travelling through the west end of town this week I found myself having to creep into an intersection because of a distracting sign partially blocking my view. My frustration brought me to my computer to look for an email address to complain to this Candidate. My search landed me on The City Of Kingston website and a very interesting piece of information, a By-law.

By-law 2000-293, a by-law to regulate election signs in the City of Kingston. It sets the procedure and rules for the placement of election signs. If you have a moment to view this document it would become very clear that a certain Mayoral candidate is violating this law and, as per section 12, should be liable to pay the set fine.

Now, you would think that a Mayoral candidate would do a little research and make sure the multitude of his “Electoral Graffiti” is not violating any city laws, the city in which he would like to represent and lead into the future.

It is not the magnitude of your sign that makes you a good Mayor, it’s the platform of your campaign and how visible you are in the community. A three foot piece of corrugated plastic shouldn’t represent a man, yet it is the man that should represent his city.

I encourage all candidates to think about our city and its residents before scattering the streets with your wasted advertising. Stand up for the city you claim to adore and take that collected money and donate it to a worthy cause. You will impress me much more with that human action than any sign would ever do.
Submitted to Kingstonist’s Community Soapbox by: Tim Pearsall.

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17 thoughts on “Community Soapbox: Election Signs

  • We snapped a few pictures of some of the offending signs to back up Tim's post. While we made our rounds we notice a lot of signs, from more than one candidate, that break the by-law. Why have a by-law if you're not going to enforce it? My beef, which Tim alluded to, is the shear number of these signs. Visually they aren't so great to look at, and otherwise I don't believe a lot of them can be recycled unless the candidate runs again. If Kingston wants to become the most sustainable city, perhaps we should look at banning election signs on public property. That would easily cut down on waste, but there are definitely bigger fish to fry.

    Thanks for the post Tim! Our first community soapbox feature.

    • I don't think a complete ban on public property would even be possible (or quickly be struck down on a charter challenge as many municipal sign by-laws, election, telephone poll posters or otherwise have been). Then you have next to impossible enforcement on any by-law on who put the sign there when its a bunch of campaign volunteers not necessarily doing as they were instructed.

      • Just like the by-law demanding the removal of signs within 7 days after the election it is incumbent on the candidate to ensure that this is done – even on private property. This is why campaign teams are supposed to keep track of these things.

        Given that we have candidates running who have experience with council there is no excuse for not knowing the by-laws. Mr. Gerretsen in particular, due to the fact that his campaign team includes veteran campaigners, should know the rules and should have, if he is the effective leader he claims to be, been able to communicate the simple and straightforward regulations of the bylaw to his volunteers.

        Further, the city's own website includes a FAQ for candidates that has a link to the bylaw right on it – and that page isn't a recent addition.

  • I was very pleased during the last Federal and Provincial elections that most of the parties agreed to not place signs on public land. It was rather disappointing to see our Municipal politicians (or one in particular) not following suit.

    Every time I see an election sign on public land I want to vote for Gerretsen a little less. Considering I drive by at least a half-dozen on the way to work each day I think without knowing a single thing about his policies Mr. Gerretsen has lost my vote.

    The by-law is pretty clear on what is or isn't allowed. If I am not mistaken, by-law offenses are usually not acted upon until someone complains. I may have to get out my tape measure to find an example or 3 and contact our friendly neighbourhood by-law officer.

    • The city has no problem giving a ticket to an elderly lady, why can't they ticket the other offenders

  • I'm with you Tim! I wish we didn't have to see election signs at all. I think they're a reflection of how a candidate really feels about sustainability… the more signs, the less they care, IMHO.

  • I could not agree more! Signs should be outlawed. If not in all areas, just public. It is a huge waste of time and money. Not to mention making our city look like crap.

    Speaking of recycling, candidate Rob Matheson actually chose not to use the standard sign. He is only creating the "bag" signs that can be used as a recycling bag, garbage bag etc. once the election is complete. It serves more than one use. He is also only creating a limited number to keep the city looking good. Kudos to him!

    I know bylaw started their communications with the candidates today. They have all been warned and if they do not comply sings will be removed. That's a great start!

    • I'd suspect the number of signs has more to do with the relative fund raising success of the campaigns then a decision to limit their numbers, and the "plastic bag" ones are quite a bit cheaper. If you have the money its either spend it or lose it, any surplus is turned over to the city. They can't be retained for a future election or be donated to another cause.

      There was a big fund raising difference between Rosen and Downes last time. Now Gerretsen has Rosen's backers and liberal party while Matheson isn't exactly Downes. I see a number of houses that always have NDP signs sporting Gerretsens….suspect this is going to be a blowout.

      To actually ticket someone you have to know who to ticket. If the person on the sign was automatically collared you potentially could have people moving the competitors signs and reporting them

      • That is a good point. Want to make the other guy look bad? Move a bunch of signs and report him. It's dirty pool, and while I would hope that none of Kingston's prospects would do such a thing, it's either already happened or will happen now that we're talking about it.

        While a ban may not be popular or even possible, I think that the federal election candidates, and Hemberger's district (below) may be onto something. If candidates consistently agree not to put up signs, it sets a solid precedent for future elections, and it's a tip of the hat towards sustainability. With the cash they'll save, some of these candidates could actually afford to hire a web designer as opposed to getting their nephew to do it for free.

  • The signs can not be recycled. I have also emailed both candidates in my district ( Bill Wornes and Liz Schell. We came to a mutual agreement not to use signs. I believe this method works best if all people are on the same level such as not running against an incumbent. Signs do tend to be annoying due to clutter and vandalism. To me they can be expensive ( $7 each based on a quantity of 100)

    • The bag signs can be recycled. I know because we specifically asked if they can be recycled for the Matheson campaign and the answer was: yes.

  • On the topic of fundraising, keep in mind that Matheson has accepted the "Fair Vote Challenge" ( and has agreed to not accept any corporate or union donations. He has every opportunity to collect large amounts of cash to make his campaign much bigger but chooses not to. It would be very interesting if all candidates decided to do the same thing during an election.

    Gerretsen will probably win. I don't like the thought, but money wins you elections. As long as you have the backing of rich and powerful people it doesn't matter what type of person you actually are. Personally I would like to see a Mayor with a family oriented background, someone who is caring and approachable. Someone who I feel earned the spot and didn't just fall in to place because of their family history.

    • It's easy to run in the city that you were born in. Gerretsen and Chalmers are both born and bred Kingstonians.

      Matheson's family, being members of the Diplomatic Corp, travelled all over the world. They are originally from north of Ottawa but when it came time to settle down, of all the places in Canada and the world that Rob had lived and visited he chose Kingston as his home.

      To mean that speaks volumes.

      • Sure, but people could be equally as impressed by a born and bred candidate who chose to stay here. One can't control where they were born, so we shouldn't take away points from candidates just because they were born in Kingston. I was born in Kingston, does that make me any less qualified to serve than someone who moved here? I should think not.

        While I'll pay attention to candidate bios, I'm more concerned with their platforms. To be honest I've yet to make up my mind, and I've yet to really hear from a candidate who's message stuck.

  • As the photographer for this post, I would like to point out that the photo above is only one example of the slew of offending signs I saw. And they weren't all for Garretson. I'm not saying this to back him (I have no idea who I will be voting for at this point) but I thought in fairness, you should know that I saw lots of illegally placed signs by Chalmers and Paterson as well.

  • I agree about Paterson. Over the last couple of days I must have seen 100 new signs. Majority of those signs are in illegal spots. Perhaps the complaint to bylaw was made a little too soon. We are all going to drown in election signs over the next few weeks. I expect them to triple…. yikes!

  • One thing that I've noticed this time is that there appear to be fewer signs on private property. There aren't a load of the big signs, either.

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