Erika Johanson, a candidate for the Democracy Direct group, lodged a formal complaint earlier this month with city chief elections officer Sandy Bowden, in which she asserted that lettering on a vintage car Klassen rode in the Sea Festival torchlight parade on Aug. 5 violated provisions of the city’s signage bylaw covering election signs.
Johanson said the lettering – “Vote for Ernie Klassen White Rock City Council” – was in violation of the bylaw stipulation that campaign signs “shall be displayed not more than 30 days before the date of (an) election or referendum.”
At the time of the complaint, city communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi said the matter had been referred to city staff.
Although political incumbents are allowed parade signage showing which level of government they represent, “there should not have been signage that encouraged voting for someone,” she wrote in an Aug. 8 email to Peace Arch News.
“As with any complaint we receive regarding the City’s bylaws, staff will follow up on that complaint and use it as an opportunity to remind, educate, and/or fine the individual(s) for breaching that specific bylaw.”
This week, Farrokhi confirmed, in a further email, that “city staff followed up and used the incident as an opportunity to educate Mr. Klassen on (the bylaw).”
“We do not anticipate there being any further issues on this matter,” she wrote Monday.
Klassen told PAN Tuesday that he believed he had done “due diligence” in informing parade organizers that he was going to be decorating the vehicle with the lettering chosen.
“I was told there was no issue, and as far as I was concerned it was not an issue – until it was,” he said.
Klassen – who was announced as a White Rock Coalition candidate later on Tuesday afternoon – reiterated that he had interpreted the city’s sign bylaw as referring to election signs erected on lawns or road medians, rather than the rub-on lettering that was applied to the vehicle for the duration of the parade.
He confirmed that he had since been informed by the city that it applies to all election signage.
“I apologize for my interpretation,” he said. “But I had asked about it, and been given the green light.”
Johanson said Tuesday that she had not received any follow-up communication from the city after being told the incident – which she called an “unfair advantage” – would be referred to staff.
“Ernie should have known about the bylaw – he’s applying for the job of councillor, for which the number one responsibility is to enact bylaws, and he should uphold the bylaws,” she said, on hearing of the city’s action on the complaint.
“(But) I’m not concerned that he’ll do this again.”