Jordan Bateman with one of his 'No TransLink Tax' signs

Surrey taking down ‘no’ signs

The war over the transit plebiscite for more funding revs up as city pulls opposition signs from public property

The City of Surrey has been pulling “No TransLink Tax” signs from city property and the group that put them there is crying foul.

For about the past two weeks, City of Surrey bylaw officers have been taking down signs opposing the ongoing transit referendum.

The city is spending $300,000 in taxpayer dollars to get out the “yes” vote for a 0.5-per-cent hike in sales tax in order to pay for better transit and transportation projects.

Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, has been working a spirited campaign against the plebiscite proposal – on a shoestring budget of $40,000.

Cities in the region and TransLink are spending upwards of $7 million to promote a yes vote. Bateman says Surrey is being heavy-handed in using bylaw officials to further hammer down his meagre campaign initiative.

“All of our signs are gone in Surrey unless they are on private property,” Bateman said. “We had a bunch near the Pattullo Bridge,  we had some in the Green Timbers park area, a few on King George, a few on Fraser Highway.”

He believes the city could be taken to court over the signs’ removal, but he says his group has neither the time nor the money to take on a publicly funded municipality.

Surrey’s Manager of Bylaw Enforcement Jas Rehal confirmed that officers had taken down about 20 signs from public property in the city over the past two weeks.

Mayor Linda Hepner said the signs had to come down because they were in direct contravention of city bylaws.

“They can go on private property, just not on public space property,” Hepner said Wednesday.

The City of Surrey sign bylaw does include language that permits signs in public spaces during elections.

Asked if the “no” signs would qualify, as Elections BC is overseeing the transit referendum, Hepner said no.

“I would think not, it’s a plebiscite, not an election,” Hepner said.

The city is renting advertising space on bus shelters in public spaces promoting the yes vote, which Hepner said Bateman’s group is also entitled to do.

There is also a “vote yes” sign in the window of city hall, which is also public property.

“On city hall, yes,” Hepner said. “I don’t think you can define the ‘yes’ sign on city hall property the same way you can define the ‘no’ sign on public rights of way.”

Johal said there have been no requests to put up a “no” sign at city hall.

Asked if no campaigners would be allowed to post a sign if they asked, Rehal said “we would review that request accordingly.”

Bateman wrote Hepner and the city on Thursday morning, lodging a complaint and asking for equal space in public facilities.

“Despite the proliferation of hundreds of non-conforming, illegal and ugly signs throughout Surrey, ours were singled out for near-instant removal,” Bateman says in his email to Hepner. “We believe this is an inappropriate political statement by City of Surrey staff, fuelled by your support for the TransLink tax.”

He said the no side should have equal space in taxpayer-funded facilities.

“Fairness is a key tenet in any campaign. TransLink and various local governments, including your own, are spending $7 million in taxpayer money to push for the TransLink tax,” Bateman said in the email. “We believe a few lawn signs and posters, paid for voluntarily by No TransLink Tax supporters with their after-tax dollars, should be allowed.”

He said because of the tight timeline – ballots are due back by May 29 – he would appreciate a response immediately.

As of The Leader’s press deadline Wednesday, there was no word on whether Bateman’s signs would be allowed.

Hepner said she understands the optics of Surrey taking down the no signs, seeing as the city is supporting the yes side.

“I can certainly see how it could be interpreted that way,” Hepner said. “That’s not the way I would interpret it.”

She said the no side should collect its signs that were taken and put them on private property.

“If they can find a store that will put up the no signs, nobody is going to have any trouble with that at all,” Hepner said.

She said the yes campaign is going well, with the abiding challenge being to get the message out to voters.

That message is that about 45 per cent of the transit benefits contained in the proposal will be coming south of the Fraser, with the bulk of them in Surrey.

“I hope (voters) realize that the cost is going to happen regardless down the road,” Hepner said. “Whether that be ‘I’m stuck for an extra length of time in traffic,’ or whether that is ‘I can’t get there at all, because the service isn’t there’.”

She also understands the yes campaign is an “uphill struggle” and that a lot of people face financial constraints.

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

PHOTOS: South Surrey skunk family photo earns honourable mention in BC SPCA contest

Winners of society’s latest wildlife photography contest announced

Surrey wrestler Jason Bains receives four-year suspension for using banned substance

Queen Elizabeth Secondary grad tests positive for steroid Turinabol, silver national medal removed

COVID-19 exposures reported at four more Surrey schools

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

UPDATED: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Peace Arch Hospital

Provincial health officer says outbreak is in the facility’s rehab unit

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Report raises questions about COVID outbreak that killed 25 seniors at Langley Lodge

CEO defends leaked document that’s igniting queries about BC’s most deadly COVID outbreak

PHOTO: RCMP escort beaver across busy Chilliwack road

Motorists had to exercise patience as the slow-moving creature crossed several lanes of traffic

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

Most Read