British Columbia

Surrey sign ban forces election candidates to shift campaign strategy

A Surrey city bylaw against posting election signs on public property has resulted in campaigns adapting to the new rules by diverting resources to social media and door-knocking.

Signs on public property were outlawed after 2018 municipal campaign

Federal election sign on private property in Surrey, where a bylaw prevents such signage on public property. (Ben Righetti/CBC News)

Federal candidates running in Surrey, B.C., are adapting to a citywide ban on campaign signs by boosting their election bids on social media and through more traditional tactics.

Planting signs on public property was banned in Surrey after the 2018 civic election campaign, when a long list of candidates led to numerous candidate boards piling up around the city, including at road intersections where drivers reported having trouble seeing past them.

Surrey bylaw officers removed more than 1,800 signs that were put up illegally during that campaign, with the city's bill running to $160,000, according to a report that went to council in May.

The bylaw has meant federal election candidates have to find other ways to get their message across to voters.

Difficulty boosting recognition

Stephen Crozier, NDP candidate for South Surrey-White Rock, agreed that too many signs can be an eyesore and have a negative effect on the environment — but he said the new rule does put some candidates at a disadvantage.

"If you are not an incumbent, if you're not that well known, it does make it more difficult to get your name out there," said Crozier.

He said fewer signs make it more difficult for voters to connect his name and face, so he is adapting by making use of more Facebook posts.

Campaign challenges

Even if you're a recognized name, there are other issues.

Sujay Nazareth, the campaign manager for Surrey-Newton Conservative candidate Harpreet Singh, said his candidate is a well known Punjabi-language television host, so name recognition isn't a problem.

But asking property owners to put up signs can be a tough sell.

"You had to actually convince people to put it on private property, which is not an easy feat, and it suddenly has posed a challenge in that respect," Nazareth said.

A federal election sign for Liberal candidate Randeep Sarai on private property in Surrey. (Ben Righetti/CBC News)

He also alleged that some campaigns are not playing by the rules and are deceiving people to gain permission to erect signs on their lawns.

"It has appeared that some of our competitors have been talking to some homeowners and said this is sort of like a government law, you have to put up a sign," he said.

Traditional campaigning

Matthew Larventz, the campaign manager for Surrey Centre Liberal candidate Randeep Sarai, said the signage restrictions have left more time for social media messaging and traditional campaigning through door-knocking and phone calls.

"We save a lot of resources and we are putting those resources on the doors and putting them on the phones and talking to our neighbours, which I think is the basics of what an election campaign looks like," Larventz said.

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