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Newmarket-Aurora Conservative candidate runs afoul of sign bylaw

The signs that were in violation of the bylaw were taken down the same day, with no indication the party will challenge the rules as it did in the last federal election
2021-08-17-Kim election sign-GK
Conservative Party election signs were spotted in Newmarket this week, but were taken down by the party over concerns about them violating the town sign bylaw.

Newmarket-Aurora Conservative candidate Howard Kim came under fire this week for not following local election sign bylaws, but his campaign team is signalling it will not challenge them as the previous candidate did in 2019.

People reported seeing election signs for Kim on Aug. 17 on public property disallowed under Newmarket’s sign bylaw, including Marilyn Powell Park on Main Street South and on Eagle Street.

In the 2019 federal election, local Conservatives opposed York Region’s sign bylaw, which disallows signs until four weeks before the election. 

Kim’s campaign manager, Bill Hogg, confirmed the signs have been removed, saying it was a clarity issue around allowable start dates and locations. The candidate will follow municipal sign bylaws, he said.

“We always use best efforts to comply with all local bylaws. We spoke directly to both Aurora and Newmarket bylaw departments in advance and based on those conversations, we were confident that we were following the local bylaws,” Hogg said. “Subsequent discussions with Newmarket bylaw revealed that the bylaw was unclear on the allowable start date or locations, so out of respect to local bylaws, we immediately took steps to remove the signs and will re-post 28 days in advance.”

The riding is subject to sign bylaws for Newmarket, Aurora and York Region. Election signs are disallowed on Newmarket town property but can be placed on private property the day after an election is called, subject to conditions. Parties can put signs on regional property subject to conditions, but only 28 days before an election, which would be Aug. 23 for this election. 

Newmarket-Aurora NDP chief financial officer and campaign agent Kevin Shackleton said he found five Conservative campaign signs seemingly against the rules and reported them to the town. He said the town informed him later the same day that the signs were being taken down.

“I was pleased about that because it’s really not fair,” Shackleton said. “If everybody else is playing by the rules, why do the Conservatives go outside the bylaws?”

Acting manager of regulatory services John Comeau said the town will be enforcing its sign bylaw. He said they received violations reports, but have achieved compliance. Comeau said the town provides information about what is allowed to parties that obtain sign applications. 

“We are in the process of proactively reaching out to all other parties with information relating to sign permits and our regulations,” Comeau said. “We are confident in the legality of our regulations.”

The Conservatives challenged the legality of some sign bylaws for candidate Lois Brown in 2019. Specifically, they questioned York Region’s rule disallowing them on regional roads until 28 days before an election, and similar rules elsewhere. In an open letter to municipalities, a lawyer for the Conservative Party of Canada stated the bylaw violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But Kim’s campaign has not given any indication the party is challenging the rules again. 

Shackleton spoke positively about the local Conservatives' quick actions “rectifying the mistake.” 

“I would like to think Harold Kim, as deputy mayor in Aurora, would have a little bit more respect for bylaws than the previous Conservative candidate,” Shackleton said. “I think in all likelihood it was an honest mistake.”