The Fleetwood BIA is taking issue with pro-SkyTrain election signs in Surrey and has asked Elections BC to investigate.
This comes after the City of Surrey was told to remove signs promoting its light rail transit vision last week.
In a letter addressed to Elections BC Communications Manager Andrew Watson dated Oct. 3, Fleetwood BIA executive director Dean Barbour stated the business group is “gravely concerned that these (SkyTrain) signs, so close to an election, can be perceived as interference by this third party advertiser and would like this issue to be properly investigate and resolved.”
Barbour also sent a photo with his letter, which shows a poster that says “Vote SkyTrain” on it, and references the Oct. 20 Surrey civic election.
Barbour’s letter quoted Watson’s comments in the Now-Leader last week, regarding the removal of LRT signage, when Watson said the legislation defines election advertising broadly “as the transmission to the public by any means during a campaign period.”
At the time, Watson said while the city’s light rail signage didn’t directly or oppose a candidate, “they did directly support LRT in Surrey… which is a campaign issue in that election.”
In his Oct. 3 letter, Barbour said “there is neither a Mr., Ms. or Mrs. SkyTrain on the ballot so we felt it safe to assume that these signs are in fact supporting a specific election issue in our community.”
Barbour said he sent the letter on Wednesday (Oct. 3), and hadn’t heard back by early Thursday morning.
Watson told the Now-Leader Thursday (Oct. 4) that Elections BC has received a complaint from the Fleetwood BIA.
“As with any complaint we receive regarding potential contraventions of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, we are reviewing this complaint,” said Watson in an emailed statement, adding that not all complaints receive an investigation.
Watson also said Elections BC would follow up with the Fleetwood BIA about the outcome of their review of the complaint.
Along the bottom of the signs, it says “Authorized by SkyTrain for Surrey” and includes the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The SkyTrain for Surrey Twitter account states that the signs were first unveiled at 104th Avenue and 140th Street on Sept. 28.
Daryl Dela Cruz, SkyTrain for Surrey founding director, said he believes the pro-SkyTrain group is “absolutely within our rights to conduct this advertising.”
Dela Cruz said in an emailed statement that the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act includes provisions for advertising, such as third-party advertising about an issue of public policy “that a candidate or elector organization is associated with, but does not name the candidate or elector organization.” He added that SkyTrain for Surrey registered and was approved by Elections BC since the beginning of the official campaign period.
Watson confirmed that SkyTrain for Surrey is registered with the Elections BC office as a third-party election advertising sponsor.
We are pleased to unveil our first "Vote for SkyTrain" signs at 104 Ave and 140 St! This is our most important opportunity to make #SkyTrain a reality in #SurreyBC. Help us fund additional signs: https://t.co/meMNxDZoTX.#VoteForSkyTrain #SurreyElection #surreypoli #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/7DHNVXincv
— SkyTrain for Surrey (@SkyTrain4Surrey) September 28, 2018
The Fleetwood BIA has taken a firm stance that light rail technology is the right choice for Surrey, including along Fraser Highway. In an interview with the Now-Leader last week, Barbour said Skyrain is “short sighted” and will be a “noisy monstrosity,” while light rail is the “right choice.”
Barbour noted that the city’s town centre plans, in all six town centres, have been developed predicated on rapid transit at grade.
Light rail, he said, would bring “development, growth, job creation and economic development.”
If SkyTrain is the better option, Barbour challenged the pro-SkyTrain camps to present a long-term plan for the people of Surrey, noting city hall envisions a 150-kilometre LRT network.
“Whereas the SkyTrain option has only been planned for the Fraser Highway corridor, with no subsequent links,” said Barbour.
The Newton BIA is also pushing for “transformative” LRT to stay on track.