Edmonton

St. Albert resident says she feels 'bullied' by mayor over lawn sign

When Tara Seeger put up a sign asking Canada Post to restore door-to-door service, she didn't know it would create so much controversy. While she feels strongly about bringing the service back, apparently not everyone in her neighbourhood agrees.

'We just don't let signs up all over the place,' says Mayor Nolan Crouse in voice message warning

St. Albert resident Tara Seeger with the lawn sign that started all the trouble. (CBC)

When Tara Seeger put up a sign asking Canada Post to restore door-to-door service, she didn't know it would create so much controversy.

While she feels strongly about bringing the service back, apparently not everyone in her neighbourhood agrees. 

Somebody filed a complaint about the sign, and last week Seeger received a letter from the City of St. Albert, telling her she has until July 12 to take down the sign, because it's illegal.

"When I got the letter, I went, 'Huh?,'" said Seeger, standing by the small sign on her lawn, just four houses down from another resident who has a lawn sign that reads "We vote for CBC."

"Because, what the city is claiming is that I'm doing third-party business advertising," Seeger said. "And what I'm doing, to my understanding, is advocating for the restoration of a public service, which is door-to-door mail delivery.

"The more I thought about it, the City of St. Albert's request for me to take down the sign is unconstitutional. And that it goes against the Canadian charter of freedom of expression. So I decided to contact the city."

Seeger said she called the office of St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse and an assistant told her the message would be passed on.

Then the mayor called

That's where things turned bizarre, Seeger said.

While doing an interview with CBC, she received a call from Crouse, who left a voice message telling Seeger the city will insist she take down the sign. Crouse said nothing about any bylaw that might prohibit such signs. He simply told her to take it down.

Seeger shared the voicemail with CBC.

"Hi, Mrs. Seeger. Nolan Crouse here. I got your letter, don't plan on taking any more action on this. Just want you to know I got your letter. Certainly the challenge with people putting signs up is it gets out of control. As soon as people start putting one sign up, somebody else starts putting other signs up. So, what we've tried to do is keep our community clean and not controversial. It's a great place to live for all kinds of reasons, and one of them is, we just don't let signs up all over the place.

"So, we're going to stick to our guns on this one. Just thought I'd let you know that we have no plans to change. As you could imagine, we've got hundreds and hundreds of signs that could go up. We could get people who don't like the Chinese child policy, we have people who, you know, freedom of drugs. We've got all kinds of people who want us to support certain things. If we started with people putting signs up wherever, all over, we'll end up with quite a community. What we want to do is not suppress people like you. You can express your ways in other ways, through the Internet, through advertisement. If you want to take an advertisement out in the Gazette or somewhere, that's an option. We're going to stick with our guns on this, thank you very much, and have a great day."

"It's as bizarre as the letter was," Seeger said of the mayor's voicemail. "It is like to be told not to take any further action, you could nearly see that as a mild form of bullying, right? I mean, it's like, what is he trying to tell me? Don't take any further action, what is he trying to express?"

City says sign is third-party advertising

Crouse wasn't available to comment on the sign controversy. An assistant put CBC in touch with Jean Ehlers, the manager of development for the city of St. Albert.

"In this particular instance, the way the sign is worded though, there is reference to a third party, which is the website mentioned at the bottom of the sign," Ehlers said. "We the city would see that constituting third-party advertising."

Seeger views the city's position as a form of censorship, and said her next step is the courtroom, where she plans to fight for her right to display the sign.

"It's completely ridiculous," she said. "But beyond the ridiculousness, it's very serious. I cannot take it very lightly. And I can come up with something very ridiculous on July 12. I'm going to go legal, because it is very serious."

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