Landowners in the Peace River area are claiming Alberta Transportation is suppressing their right to free speech after anti-nuclear signs on private property were removed.
Bruce Power is exploring the viability of building a nuclear plant in the area. Though no formal applications have been made, some residents are expressing opposition. In response to the sign removal, a group of landowners staged a sit-in at the Alberta Transportation offices in Peace River in late December. Group spokesperson Pat McNamara said it was a failed attempt to get answers why the no-to-nuclear signs are the only ones being targeted in what Alberta Transportation says is a provincial initiative. “This isn’t a nuclear issue, it’s about freedom of speech,” said McNamara.
The contractor who removed the signs “had to walk over real estate signs in the ditch to remove ours,” McNamara said.
On Jan. 21, McNamara and seven others met with Alberta Transportation operations manager Bill Gish, who discounted the allegation.
“We have a policy to remove signs that are in the right-of-way without a permit,” said Gish. Certainly, he added, there are many others that are non-conforming, and they will be subject to the same treatment. “It’s part of a provincial initiative to reduce signage along the highways,” he said. “We’re writing letters to landowners to let them know what the regulations are.”
Permits are required for any signs less than 300 metres from the right of way or 800 metres from an intersection. “The same rules apply to everyone,” said Gish.
The controversy started in December when a contractor removed an anti-nuclear sign from a general store in Dixonville. Others in the area were removed around the same time.
“We do know that the order to remove the signs was issued December 14, the same day then-energy minister Mel Knight said the province is open for business for nuclear power plants and will look at proposed nuclear power plants on a case-by-case basis,” said McNamara. Gish called that a “coincidence” and said the sign removals were not linked to the announcement.