A circa-2005 set of posters from the Toronto Public Space Committee's campaign to save public postering.
In Toronto, it is legal to place community posters on utility poles.
But you sure wouldn't know that from this City of Toronto press release that went out Monday morning:
Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Vincent Crisanti will kick off an anti-postering public education campaign and bylaw blitz as part of the City's Clean Toronto Together initiative.
Date: Wednesday, June 26
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Northwest corner of Kipling and Finch Avenues
The campaign will encourage residents and businesses to use the City's street furniture kiosks and message boards to advertise upcoming events and services instead of postering on hydro poles, bus shelters, utility boxes or newspaper boxes. Posters that are placed on hydro poles, light standards and other public places will be removed by City staff and violators will be fined.
Since there's nothing wrong with encouraging people to use designated structures instead of hydro poles, the problem is really only the final sentence. It is simply wrong to suggest that affixing a poster to a utility pole is necessarily against the law.
The City's postering bylaw - set out in Chapter 693, Article IV of the Toronto Municipal Code [pdf, p.33-38] - makes clear that "community posters" are permitted on utility poles, provided they meet certain criteria. A "community poster" is broadly defined as "a poster identifying missing persons, pets or items, or promoting citizen participation in religious, civic, charitable, or non-profit activities such as advertising festivals, community events, local artistic and cultural events, local community services, and political ideas." Basically, if you're publicizing something other than Spanish lessons or waste removal, there's a decent chance your poster qualifies.
There's also a handful of restrictions concerning size, material and placement by which community posters must abide (see sections §693-31 and §693-32). But the activity itself is legal, and the bylaw was a compromise culmination of a convoluted, decade-long process that wrestled with the degree to which free speech can appropriately be regulated.
As part of the Toronto Public Space Committee, I worked on the issue at various times over the years. The first City Council meeting I attended was on the subject, and so was my first quote in NOW (although I was mistakenly identified as Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who wasn't even at the meeting).
Rob Ford has always hated posters. It is not surprising that he would still hate posters. Hating them is within his rights.
Putting them up, however, is within yours. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.