Nova Scotia

Halifax to draft bylaw restricting flyer delivery

The bylaw could include a requirement not to distribute flyers to properties with 'no flyers' signs.

Bylaw could include requirement not to distribute flyers to properties with 'no flyers' signs

Halifax regional council voted Tuesday to draft a bylaw that would regulate flyer delivery in the municipality and include delivery standards and a requirement not to distribute flyers to properties that have "no flyers" signs posted. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Halifax regional council voted Tuesday to draft a bylaw that would regulate flyer delivery in the municipality and include delivery standards and a requirement not to distribute flyers to properties that have "no flyers" signs posted.

Municipal staff will work with flyer distributors and publishers to implement and evaluate a pilot project of flyer boxes to replace end-of-driveway delivery in rural areas.

Staff recommended that a mandatory opt-in delivery option not be part of the bylaw due to concerns about freedom of speech.

Free speech vs. environmental issue

"I don't think, as a municipality, we want to be the ones leading the charge first in Canada to try and defend a flyer ban," said John Traves, the municipality's director of legal services.

"I'm reasonably sure that we would have some significant challenges getting over any sort of claim that there wasn't some way that was less invasive on freedom of expression."

Coun. Richard Zurawski disagreed.

"I don't see this as a freedom of speech issue. I'm not a lawyer who specializes in freedom of speech, but throwing something on someone's driveway is hardly freedom of speech," said Zurawski.

What's working in other communities

Coun. Lisa Blackburn said other jurisdictions have found a way around the legal barriers, such as flyer racks and flyer boxes next to community mailboxes. She said staff have met with flyer distributors and brainstormed solutions that would work for the municipality and the business.

"If you're reaching into the flyer box as you go to pick up your mail, then in essence you are opting in to get the flyers and then that does away with the pink plastic bags full of ad mail at the end of your driveway, then I think we can call it a win," Blackburn said.

Coun. Matt Whitman, who supports flyer restrictions, said he's not sure if "no flyer" signs alone would work — especially in rural areas where there can be greater distances between the "no flyer" sign on a house and the end of a driveway. Whitman said flyers are the biggest form of litter in his neighbourhood.

"I think we need to send a message. They've told us before that they'll do better and then they don't," Whitman said of delivery companies.

Enforcement that exists now

Coun. Tony Mancini said he gets calls all the time from residents saying they're still getting flyers despite putting up a sign. He asked Matt Keliher, the municipality's solid waste manager, what sort of enforcement exists now.

"Enforcement is really self-regulated within the flyer industry," said Keliher. "If there are issues or concerns, the resident would typically call the Chronicle Herald or the flyer delivery company and they police themselves."

But Keliher said there are parts of the Environment Act that prohibit the throwing of flyers on driveways. 

"It's considered litter and ultimately the following up on that would be the responsibility of Nova Scotia Environment to lay a litter charge," Keliher said.

Clear direction, possible consequences

Blackburn said "no flyer" signs would be effective with a bylaw.

"A bylaw would give clear direction on the expected behaviour and the possible consequences if they don't follow the rules," she said.

Coun. Bill Karsten said he likes the idea of residents having a uniform "no flyers" sign instead of people making their own.

"If the printing was done right and inexpensively, I could certainly see me buying or getting a thousand through district capital or whatever, quite frankly, and having in locations in my district for residents to pick up," Karsten said.

With files from Pam Berman