Election Signs to be Affixed after Jewish Holidays

Published: August 30th 2010
in News » Local

James Pasternak

Toronto councillors have cut by four days the period people can display municipal candidates' signs out of consideration to the city's Jewish community.


Except at candidate's offices, the signs were not to be posted before Sept. 30.


On Thursday, Toronto’s amendments regarding election signs were officially changed so that the first day to affix election signs will no longer be on religious Jewish holidays.


Originally, the city of Toronto had a bylaw where a candidate could not put up election signs until the 30th of September, but this is when Shemini Atzeret falls this year. As well, October 1st is Simchat Torah, and the 2nd is Shabbat.


Jewish organizations, and at least one candidate for council, complained this would give candidates a disadvantage if they observed Jewish religious law, since September 30, and the three days following, are holidays in which Jews are told to "do no work."


So for Jewish candidates, the opposition would have a three day head start in putting up their lawn signs, which is one of the most crucial parts of the campaign.


“There was a lack of fairness in the bylaw,” James Pasternak told Shalom Life. “In election campaigns, they are very highly regulated; you can’t just put up your lawn signs whenever you feel like it, everything has a date attached to it and a rule. And the reason election laws are written that way is so that everyone has a reasonable chance of winning and there’s no lack of fairness.”


“So we’ve been working with Len Rudner at CJC as well as the B’nai Brith, and any other elected representative that we could find,” Pasternak continued. “Councillors Ootes and Feldman brought a motion forward to change the dates to October 4, and it was passed on Thursday through city council.”


This move would place all candidates on equal ground.


The motion passed, 31-4, leaving candidates three weeks for signs on lawns, billboards and shop windows before the October 25 voting day, Inside Toronto reported.


Feldman, a longtime North York councillor who is not currently running for re-election, made it clear he wants a level playing field for those in the race to replace him.


In his ward, he added, "there are nine candidates who are Jewish, one who is not. I'm supporting the one who is not," Feldman said, referring to his former senior executive assistant, Nancy Oomen.


Feldman said Len Rudner, regional director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, was the first to call him and say that starting the display period for signs on the festivals of Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, and then the Jewish Sabbath, gave non-Jewish candidates an "unfair advantage," it was reported.


Feldman had wanted to start the display period a day earlier, but a law setting election dates makes that impossible without the province's agreement.


Pasternak told Shalom Life he appreciates councillor Feldman’s ongoing support, as well as Len Rudner’s work on this file, ultimately changing the dates in favour of an equal playing field.


“I think it’s important that now there’s a real fairness in the campaign across the city, especially in Jewish ridings.”

Related articles: (municiple, election, pasternak, ootes, cjc, Jewish holidays)
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