City administration runs amok with electioneering rules that defy understanding.

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By Jim Young

September 10th, 2018


This is my Political Fridge Magnet.

fridge magnet

Political magnet on a fridge

When I stick it on my fridge it tells my friends, family and anyone else raiding my fridge for stale pizza or a cold beer, who I support in the upcoming Burlington Election.

As is my right in our democracy, I also hope it helps persuade my fridge raiders to support my candidate too.
It is after all a “Political Fridge Magnet”

fridge magnet on a car

Political magnet on a car

This was my Political Fridge Magnet when I stuck it on my Car.

My hope was that, without distracting other road users, I might inform and persuade them to support my candidate too.

That’s how our democracy works right?


According to Burlington Elections Office, when I stick my political fridge magnet on my car, it becomes an election sign and since election signs on cars are limited to one per candidate, my fridge magnet becomes illegal.

Bylaw Staff are interpreting “one per candidate” to mean “one per campaign”.

This seems ridiculous, we do not limit candidates to one lawn sign per campaign.

Also, I am not a candidate so the limit for “candidates” should not apply to me.

Based on this overreaching interpretation, I am not allowed to let my fellow Burlingtonians know how I will vote or to encourage their participation in the election by using my fridge magnet on my car.

It cannot be the size of the sign that offends nor the content.

After September 8th, people will be allowed to put much larger signs on their lawns that will say exactly the same thing.

Many citizens will do this in favour of their favourite candidate.

That is one of the fun, informative and engaging features of our democracy.

Except I don’t have a lawn. I live in an apartment.

If I was wealthy enough to own a house, I could have a lawn sign 100 times bigger than my fridge magnet but the poor fridge magnet on my car would still be deemed illegal.

This is my Political Fridge Magnet on my car when I stick some really ugly masking tape on it to hide the word Mayor.

Apparently that makes it legal and in compliance with Election Sign and Election Car Magnet rules.

I’m going to leave it on my car like that and I won’t tell anyone it says “Mayor” under there if you don’t.
(Rumour has it that the folks at MMW’s campaign office have colour coordinated tape for just this purpose.)

This degree of bureaucratic nonsense makes my head spin and while it easy to make fun of, it begs answers to the following:

1. Does our city really pay an electoral officer to monitor fridge magnets?

2. Does a bylaw allowing election signs on lawns, and nowhere else, discriminate against those who do not have lawns? Those without lawns tend to be the poor, the marginalised, the young, the elderly and the less abled who cannot afford a home with an expanse of lawn. (On a truly silly note, but no sillier than the bylaw, what if economic circumstances force me to live in my car? Can I call my hood my lawn and stick my fridge magnet there? Just asking.)

3. On a deeper level: This is an infringement upon my freedom of speech, freedom of political thought and my freedom to express that thought? Surely that runs counter to the whole purpose of elections in a free and open society.

4. This is the kind of silencing of citizen voices we saw in this council’s attempt to reduce citizen delegation time last year, and the insistence, despite all evidence, that we were fully consulted on major issues like The Official Plan and Downtown Intensification, that are giving rise to citizen groups demanding better from our city council and the number of candidates vying to replace them.

Jim Young standingJim Young is an Aldershot resident who delegates before city council frequently. 

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7 comments to City administration runs amok with electioneering rules that defy understanding.

  • Jane Jenner

    What a ridiculous by-law! Just because someone intends to vote for a particular candidate and wishes to make that public, doesn’t mean they are officially part of that candidate’s campaign, anyway. They are simply an engaged citizen who isn’t afraid to make their support of a particular candidate public. Yes, they may also want to influence others to consider that candidate, but how is putting a magnet on your car any different than talking to someone about the candidate in the grocery store line-up, for example. It is freedom of expression, pure and simple, and I would say this by-law in unconstitutional.

  • I’d agree the rule seems over prohibitive, but your target is wrong.

    The “city administration” just implements what council writes. We all knew the policy – the clerk explained it very clearly to me and I assume other Candidates.

    Only one car can be marked as Jim Young is obviously involved in the MMW campaign – the rules are being interpreted correctly by city staff. If another car is marked Jim’s can not be.

    Staff is implementing the rule correctly. Elect other people to Council if you want different rules.

  • transit driver

    so just remember your democracy ends when you put your vote in the ballott box all i know is that the City of Burlington current council needs an enema all they do is cater to the downtown business, devlopers, Lakeshore residents and Millcroft residents everyone else be damed

  • Mike Ettlewood


    Oh well and ably put – a modern day Samuel Clemens with truths wrapped and made manifest through humour. The Chief Electoral Officer lodged comfortably within the City Clerk’s Office and actually sharing the same surname has made a farce of this whole affair. It’s time that Burlington citizens made a joke of this thoroughly laughable behaviour. The problem is, as you point out, while we are laughing our democratic freedoms are being constrained. Time for a change I think – politically and with senior, overly entitled staff.

  • JQ Public

    This car election sign bylaw was perpetrated by, you guessed it, your current City Council who are trying to get re-elected in their current positions. Democracy be damned, they are entitled to their entitlements, which include free advertising in the Burlington Post every time they have a photo op.

    Everyone knows incumbents running for their same position have a leg up on any challengers simply by name recognition plus the mass of non-voters in Burlington who just don’t care until an issue comes to their street or their friends’ neighbourhoods. Then they want attention, after they’ve usually aided and abetted the status quo.

    Enabling administrators also perpetuate the status quo. After all, what current position holder wants to spend money on car magnets to get re-elected when they can simply deny others the right to promote their candidacy?

    I’m sure that a new Council with many new faces will get rid of this abomination and the hopefully the people in the administration who abet it.

    Let’s ensure that happens. Support candidates for new positions on Council.

  • George Ward

    Dear Burlington Citizens:

    It is time for change for the better. Please consider in your voting on Oct. 22nd those who Councillors who voted to allow the extensive intensification (24 Stories, etc.) downtown, i.e. the mayor and 5 of the 6 current councilors. Also please do not forget the three HDSB Trustees who voted to close two (2) Burlington high schools namely: Leah Reynolds, Andrea Grebenc and Richelle Papin.

  • Penny Hersh

    What is going to happen to those residents that wear the Tee shirt of their preferred candidate? Will the Tee Shirt By-law officer make them remove it?

    It was bad enough that ECoB was unable to rent city facilities to host the candidate ward debates because there was no guarantee that people would not come into the building with political signs, but the magnet issue is just plain ludicrous.