Courtenay council candidate Brennan Day created a couple of unique and controversial campaign signs, calling out the current city council for its approval of two infrastructure projects he has labelled as misspent money.
Day, whose platform includes fiscal responsibility, has large signs erected at both the 5th Street Bridge and the start of the 17th Street Corridor Improvement projects – the two infrastructure projects in question.
When contacted by the Record, Day said the signs have served their purpose.
“I’ll be very honest – they were designed to be controversial and I think the effect, well, it got people’s attention, and I think that’s important,” he said. “I understand that we need to make improvements, and money will have to be spent. But I think there is a lot of concern in the community currently about the priorities of city hall, and I think we need to do a little better job at balancing the requirements of all the community citizens. That’s the platform I am running on – fiscal responsibility is, of course, part of that.
“The idea was to put an issue out there that has people concerned about where the money is being spent. Clearly, that worked.”
(The 17th Street Corridor Improvements project was fully funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of BC.)
City gets involved
The messages themselves were not an issue with the City of Courtenay. The logos used on the signs were.
Day placed official City of Courtenay and Government of British Columbia logos on the top left-hand and right-hand sides of the signs.
Public complaints about the signage and the use of the municipal logo were brought to the attention of City of Courtenay staff.
“As the chief election officer I can confirm that the city was notified by the public of the use of the city’s logo in election campaign materials,” said Kate O’Connell, when contacted by the Record. “Following notification, the election candidate was respectfully requested to cover/remove the city’s logo from their campaign material, as use of the city logo may appear to be an endorsement of a candidate’s campaign or message. The city cannot endorse any candidate, and candidates are not permitted to use city logos as part of their campaign. The request to cover or remove the city logo is equally applied to any social media images in the candidate’s control.
“Upon receiving the request, the candidate complied without issue.”
Day said he researched municipal bylaws prior to posting the signs, but could not find anything to indicate the logo use was not allowed.
“To be fair, I did check into the municipal bylaws, and they are ambiguous as to the use (of city logos), or at least I couldn’t find it in my research, so I decided to try it. Obviously, they are covered up now… In a lot of other jurisdictions, they spell it out very clearly, that use of the city logos on campaign literature and advertising is not allowed. Courtenay seems that they are a little bit behind in their bylaws.”
As for the message conveyed, Day said this is one of the top issues he has heard during his campaigning
“This wasn’t just me trying to create controversy. I have been out knocking on almost 2,000 doors now, and, along with crime, those two issues have come up as the number-one and number-two issues in town. So I don’t think I am out to lunch saying current council needs to defend their position.”
Incumbent unhappy with negative campaigning
Incumbent Coun. Melanie McCollum said while she has not seen Day’s signs, she has been disappointed by some of the negative campaigning and attacks directed at the current city council during this election by anonymous online social media groups.
A tweet from McCollum, dated Sept. 12, read “Feeling frustrated with misinformation and negative campaigning in Courtenay. Local government works when people work together, not sow seeds of division. Different opinions and ideas are welcome, Trump-style politics not so much.”
McCollum said that while the tweet coincided with Day’s signs being posted, the two were not related.
“That tweet was actually not directed at that sign,” said McCollum. “My tweet was more about some of the discourse that is on social media right now from anonymous groups. It’s a few different things… there is a lot more negativity and personal attacks at council members. So it was just frustration about the general climate.”
McCollum also used her Facebook page to address some of the comments by certain groups about the 17th Street Corridor Improvement project.
“Again, this was not (in response to) his sign about it. There has been an active campaign on social media that has spread statements… that lead people to misunderstand the details of the project, and they have been very successful at pushing the negative narrative around that project.
“I recognize that there are people who don’t agree with some of the space being dedicated to bike lanes. I fully get that. But I thought it was important to qualify some of the comments people were making.”
McCollum said the attack-style campaigning is not confined to the Comox Valley. She has been at the Union of BC Municipalities convention all week, and elected officials in other parts of the province are seeing an increase in the same style of campaigning.
Co-existing on council
McCollum is mostly concerned about how such campaigning and messaging will affect the newly elected council.
“Once we are elected, we need to work, and listen, and have open dialogue. To have people come in and act in a combative way, it makes it a lot harder to have a functional council. These people you are running against, you are going to be working with in a very tight way. If you want to be listened to, you can’t do it by insulting people’s perspectives. You need to do it with an open mind.
“Maybe this negative campaigning is all about the election and hopefully the tone of dialogue will be different after the election… where everyone hits the reset and wants to work together.”
The Courtenay municipal election is Oct. 15.