Pitt Meadows has said no to an inquiry by FightHST volunteer Corisa Bell to talk to council about its bylaw which bans political signs from roadsides, parks, boulevards and bridges.
Legislative services director Laurie Darcus made the decision after consulting councillors, four of whom, including Mayor Don MacLean, opposed having Bell appear.
“We just don’t want to be used as a forum for a provincial issue that is beyond our mandate,” he explained Wednesday.
Couns. John Becker, Doug Bing and Gwen O’Connell also said no. MacLean said they all opposed any kind of delegation on the topic appearing at council, whether for or against the HST.
Coun. Deb Walters favoured allowing Bell to speak, while Couns. Bruce Bell and Tracy Miyashita didn’t respond.
City crews took down 38 Vote Yes: Extinguish the HST signs last week after receiving one complaint about the signs.
Because bylaws require a complaint in order to be enforced, the city only acted after the complaint was filed.
“Had we received no complaint, I don’t think the signs would have been removed,” said MacLean.
The same would apply to the pro-HST side in the B.C.-wide debate as the province starts its month-long mail-in referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax introduced last July.
“If the pro HST signs had gone up, they would have been taken down, guaranteed,” MacLean said.
And if any pro-HST signs go up later, they too will be removed now that enforcement has been triggered.
Signs, though, remain up along the Lougheed Highway, a provincial road outside municipal jurisdiction.
Under the city’s sign bylaws, political or election signs are banned from roadsides, medians, parks or bridges, though they can be placed on some municipal properties, as well as private lots.
However, in provincial or federal elections, many signs are allowed to remain in those locations if no one complains.
The bylaw angers FightHST volunteer Wilf McIntyre.
“If that’s the mayor and council’s way of having democracy in Canada … I can’t believe we fought two world wars. We’ve got a city council that won’t let democracy happen. Is this what Canada is all about? They’re a bunch of idiots, that council there.”
He lives in Maple Ridge, but said he’ll complain in November if he sees municipal election signs posted along roads. “This fall … if they put their signs up, they better take them down.”
MacLean said putting signs on private property is preferable because it indicates that somebody actually supports a cause.
“I think it carries a whole lot more weight.”
The mayor had previously suggested the city also limit the number of signs each candidate can display during an election to make it uniform for each competitor.
“That way, everybody is treated equally and you don’t have this visual pollution that occurs every three years.”
But that’s not being pursued by council.
Bell said she tried to call the six Pitt Meadows councillors, but no one returned her call.
She only wanted to talk to council about the sign bylaw, not the HST.
“This is our only way of advertising the Yes side.”
Bell picked up her signs from Pitt Meadows and went door knocking to see if homeowners would allow her to put them on their lawns.
On Tuesday, 35 residents along Park Road in Pitt Meadows allowed signs on their lawns. She says she’s getting a good response.
“Pitt Meadows seems to be pretty conservative. Pretty much most people I spoke to, took one.”
McIntyre said 30 more signs went up elsewhere in Pitt Meadows and on Friday organizers planned to target homes along Hammond Road.
Organizers also hosted former FightHST organizer Chris Delaney Wednesday at an HST forum in Maple Ridge council chambers. He replaced former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who was originally booked. Organizers decided to have Delaney speak rather than Vander Zalm because of the scheduling conflict with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The evening meeting drew 28 people, which was great considering the hockey game, McIntyre said.
“I think a lot of people were just looking for clarification on a lot of things.”