Montreal

Billboard ban draws legal threat

Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal borough has received a lawyer's letter advising it to back down on its plan to ban billboards.

Montreal borough calls billboards 'eyesores'

Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal borough has received a lawyer's letter advising it to back down on its plan to ban billboards.

Last month the Projet Montréal council members announced they would adopt a bylaw ordering the 45 billboards on its territory to be torn down.

Those signs belong to three companies — CBS, Astral and Pattison — and the media companies say they have no intention of sitting back and letting that happen.

Jeannot Lefebvre, who speaks for the industry group, calls it an attack on freedom of expression and says if the borough insists on going ahead with the ban, it will be in for a lengthy legal battle which will only cost taxpayers down the line.

"We won't stop, and we will get to the end and citizens will pay. That's for sure," said Lefebvre.

"You know it doesn't cost much to send a letter like that," said Coun. Alex Norris about the legal threat. "It's very easy and inexpensive … it's quite another matter to actually sue, and we believe it is not in the interest of the advertising corporations, because it is a battle they will lose. Not only in the courts but in the court of public opinion."

Visual pollution

Norris said his party has received a positive response from residents about the decision to ban new billboards and have existing ones torn down.

"People are tired of these eyesores," he said.

City lawyers have looked over the legal letter sent by the billboard industry and have given the borough the green light to move forward, said Norris. "We're not going to be moved by such threats. We're here to represent the public interest and the public is solidly behind us on this initiative," he said.

The borough will vote on the bylaw Monday.