Pitt Meadows takes down anti-HST signs

City bylaw prevents political signs on boulevards, roadsides

Corisa Bell spent a good part of her free time last Wednesday strategically placing anti HST signs along roadsides and boulevards.

Then she spent Friday trying to figure out where they had all gone.

Most of the 100 signs, about 30 centimetres square, that she put up in Pitt Meadows, have disappeared with about a third of those ending up with the city’s bylaws department.

City crews grabbed 38 of them, then e-mailed Bell, telling her she could come and pick them up.

Under the city’s sign bylaw, Sec. 5.3, election or political signs can’t be located along boulevards, medians, roadsides, on bridges or in parks.

Bell led the campaign earlier this year to recall Liberal MLA Marc Dalton because of his support of the HST.

Organizers then abandoned the recall after the mail-in HST referendum was announced for June and July.

Director of legislative services Laurie Darcus said one individual complained Wednesday, requiring municipal staff to enforce the bylaw.

Bell had wondered about putting up the signs, but thought they’d be OK.

“I was shocked to hear it was actually our city doing this.

“Clearly, somebody on the No side or probably a Liberal, had something to do with this complaint.”

She pointed out the signs, which read Vote YES: Extinguish the HST, were funded by the $225,000 that FightHST got from the provincial government.

“It’s the public who paid for those signs. It’s just a huge issue in B.C. right now. It’s one way of communicating our side of the debate and they’re preventing us from doing that. It’s awful. It’s against our civil rights.”

Bell also spent five hours putting up signs in Maple Ridge, along Lougheed Highway and Dewdney Trunk Road and other streets then saw they too, about 200, were gone when she took her daughter to work.

“Yesterday they were there. Today they’re not. It’s just so upsetting.”

But District of Maple Ridge spokesman Fred Armstrong said staff haven’t removed any signs.

“None of our people have taken any of them. We do consider them sort of an election sign.”

Armstrong said political and election signs are exempt under the district’s sign bylaw and these fall into that category. The only time staff will touch a sign is if there are safety concerns.

The signs urge people to vote yes in the mail-in ballot in June and July to dump the HST and return to five per cent Goods and Services Tax and a seven-per-cent provincial sales tax.

Bell said in the run-up to the May 2 federal election, she saw campaign signs in Pitt Meadows but Darcus pointed out the city would have had to have a complaint to remove them. Many election signs are located on private property, she added.

Bell added Monday that after Surrey reversed its policy and Chilliwack allowed the HST signs, “Pitt Meadows is the only area that is refusing to take any signs.”

Bell said she was proud to live in Maple Ridge.

“We’ve left messages with councillors of Pitt Meadows so I hope to have some return phone calls.”

Premier Christy Clark’s office announced Friday that the federal government has amended its regulations, allowing B.C. to reduce the HST to 10 per cent by July 2014.

HST ballot packages must be received by Elections BC, a Service BC centre, or an Elections BC collection centre before 4:30 p.m., July 22,