Editor’s note: The St. Albert Gazette would be impacted by the proposed bylaw mentioned in this story.
City staff will be drafting a bylaw to address unsolicited flyer delivery in St. Albert.
On Monday, city council narrowly voted 4-3 in favour of administration drafting a bylaw by September requiring companies delivering flyers to respect “no flyer” signs, after Coun. Natalie Joly brought forward the motion.
While the bylaw has yet to be written and presented to council, fines of up to $10,000 could be applied, and it would be enforced on a complaints basis.
Originally, Joly proposed an “opt-in” bylaw, meaning residents would have to individually subscribe to each piece of paper mail they wish to receive. However, administration advised against this avenue, saying it would be “using a hammer to kill a flea” and restricts freedom of expression.
There are three major businesses operating in St. Albert that rely on distributing flyers as part of their business model, including Great West Newspapers (St. Albert Gazette), Canada Post and Postmedia Network Inc. (Edmonton Journal).
Since Canada Post is under federal jurisdiction, the bylaw would not apply to flyers delivered by the national postal service.
Political literature would be excluded from such a bylaw, administration said, because numerous Supreme Court cases have demonstrated “political speech is the most important speech to protect in our free society.”
While legislative services director David Leflar said there would be an exception for newspapers, he said he had not considered the mechanics of excluding flyers inserted in the Gazette.
Joly’s motion stated there would be provisions similar to that of a Halifax bylaw dealing with unsolicited mail. In the Halifax bylaw, the definition of newspaper is a paid or requested delivery.
In her opening arguments, Joly said residents are passionate about the environment, and this is one step St. Albert can take to reduce its environmental footprint.
“I think a lot of residents are in the space where they don’t realize that they can opt out, and this kind of bylaw just puts the spotlight on it and lets residents know they don’t have to have flyers dropped off at their house,” she said.
Councillors Sheena Hughes, Ray Watkins and Ken MacKay voted against the proposal, citing concerns of penalizing kids working their first jobs delivering flyers, impact on other local businesses along with putting more demand on an already overburdened bylaw department.
“This bylaw is going to create more problems than it solves, and really if the biggest problem of your day is that you get flyers a couple of times you didn’t want, that’s probably the best first world problem you’d ever have to deal with,” said Hughes.
She added deliverers generally respect “no flyer” signs, and such a bylaw would not impact volume of flyers produced.
Watkins said he does not want to be in a situation of chasing youth down who are trying to make a few bucks off of delivering flyers.
“I just am really not too sure this is an issue that has such a high level of concern in St. Albert that we need to pass a bylaw about it and enforce it,” he said. Drafting such a bylaw could create a monopoly for Canada Post, according to an administrative background, and the city needs to determine if this would open St. Albert up to lawsuits.