INNISFAIL – Mayoralty candidate Glen Carritt is facing another election sign controversy.
This time it is coming from Red Deer County. The rural municipality is launching an investigation into whether a reported Carritt election sign placed about a kilometre east of Innisfail along Highway 590 is in contravention of the county’s Land Use Bylaw.
“We have received a complaint from a resident of Red Deer County. We have to investigate,” said Nancy Lougheed, the county’s legislative services manager, and returning officer for the 2021 general municipal election. “Someone will have to go on site and actually look at the location of the sign, if it’s on personal property or if it’s in the road right-a-way.”
Lougheed said under the county’s Land Use Bylaw election signs do not require a permit but are restricted to between Sept. 1 of an election year and the date of an election.
She said whether or not an election sign is promoting or advertising another jurisdiction’s candidate is not an issue.
“The Land Use Bylaw applies to land located in Red Deer County, so it doesn’t matter where the sign originated from,” said Lougheed.
She said the county has not contacted Carritt, a former Innisfail town councillor who resigned in January. Lougheed said she does not know if that will be part of the investigative process.
“I can’t tell you. We just got the information (March 18) from the concerned resident, and following our process, like we would for any other Land Use Bylaw infraction,” said Lougheed.
The Albertan did contact Carritt for comment and he said by text message that he did receive permission from the landowner to put up his election sign.
“Do you really think I would put up any sign without permission from the owner? Stop painting me as a bad guy,” said Carritt in his text.
On cases of potential Land Use Bylaw infractions, Lougheed said the county will often begin with an informal process of talking with a landowner to see if cooperation can be obtained. If not, the formal process will begin with a written notice to remove whatever is in contravention with the Land Use Bylaw. She said if the contravention is not remedied, it could be followed by a lengthy process as it is legislated by the province.
“If there is not cooperation then they go to a more formal process of a stop order that could be appealed by the landowner, and if that is the case then there is an appeal hearing. It could drag out unfortunately because that is the process that is mandated by the province,” said Lougheed.
The new election sign problem for Carritt follows related challenges with the Town of Innisfail.
Last weekend, Carritt and his campaign team put up election signs throughout town, which triggered widespread debate and anger across the community. The issue forced the town to obtain a legal opinion.
The town was told by a lawyer its Election Sign Policy, which says no signs can go up until 45 days before the election, is not part of the town’s Election Bylaw and is not enforceable.
The matter is expected to be discussed at town council’s regular meeting on March 22. The town could decide to have administration put the Election Sign Policy into the Election Bylaw, or draft a new bylaw altogether, which would then make the policy enforceable.