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Quebec City seeks to ban billboards

Ontario's top court overturns similar bid

 

MARIANNE WHITE, Canwest News Service

Published: 13 hours ago

 

For many Canadians, roadside billboards are part of everyday life.

 

But historic Quebec City wants to make them a thing of the past.

 

The municipality said this week it is moving ahead with a plan to ban all billboards across the 400-year-old city, just as Ontario's top court overturned Oakville's attempt to restrict their use.

 

Oakville's city council has been fighting for years to keep billboards out of its community and the recent ruling dealt a major blow to their attempt. The Ontario Court of Appeal found Monday that the bylaw was an unreasonable "intrusion" on freedom of expression and sent Oakville back to the drawing board.

 

But that decision isn't stopping Quebec City council.

 

"We are aware of the situation, but we are sticking to our position," spokesman François Moisan said. "People come to Quebec City because it's beautiful and we want to make it even more beautiful."

 

The city celebrated the 400th anniversary of its founding this year.

 

Quebec is the latest Canadian city to move to restrict billboards. Vancouver has banned large signs on rooftops while some Ottawa city councillors are asking for the power to veto billboards in their wards.

 

Last year, one of the world's most populous cities, Sao Paulo, Brazil, unplugged its neon signs and banned all types of outdoor advertising.

 

But taking down billboards isn't always easy. The case of Oakville has been a long-running legal battle between the city and a billboard firm and it took Vancouver 10 years to finally be able to get rid of its some 300 billboards.

 

Oakville councillor Tom Adams, who has worked on drafting the billboard bylaw, said other Canadian cities are going to benefit from his city carrying the banner on this issue.

 

"This battle is not over yet and other municipalities will obviously be interested in the outcome," Adams said.

 

Rawi Tabello, who runs the Toronto-based website illegalsigns.ca, which keeps track of sign wars, said advertising firms are eager to put up a fight.

 

"Advertisers are getting desperate to attract people because now you don't have to watch ads on TV. So billboards are proliferating because you have no choice but to look at them," he added.

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