Drive around any neighbourhood in Mississauga and I’m sure you’ll see them, the cheap and disposable lawn signs stuck in boulevards and other public spaces throughout the city.

Before I go on, I’m not writing this to pick on anyone or any business trying to make an honest buck and promote themselves. However, I also don’t support breaking the law and invading our public spaces with ineffective signs that no one cares about anyway. Now some people will argue that one little sign hardly makes a difference anyway… except that when a few people get away with placing these signs on public property, then more people start doing it. Do you remember the ‘don’t be a litter bug campaigns’ from when you were a child? It’s the same idea. The theory goes that if one person litters and we choose to ignore it then others think it’s ok, or at the very least that no one cares and the cycle continues.

Using an example I’m familiar with, when it comes to my industry, real estate is so competitive that agents are doing anything they can to stand out. When one person gets away with blanketing a neighbourhood with directional signs what do others think? They think they should start doing it too. The next think you know the boulevards and other properties are blanketed with illegal $2 disposable signs.

As realtors, we are reminded that there are sign bylaws and they should be followed. That’s great, and while I follow them I can tell you that a lot of my competitors don’t. Why, because there are no real consequences. Disposable directional signs, open house signs left out for the whole weekend, for sale signs on public property- the list goes on.

What’s the city’s response? Read a 4 page document written by lawyers and then you can remove them yourself… just make sure to check section 2 of schedule A to make sure the signs are not exempted.

Really… who has the time for that?

Culturally, Canadians tend to be polite and avoid confrontation. While we might not like something, if it doesn’t hurt anyone then it’s much easier to look the other way and not bother with it.

I’m guilty of it too and here’s a real scenario from a few years back: my neighbour had an illegal sign on the boulevard in front of their house. I spoke to them and asked them to remove it because it was illegal. They said no. So what did I do? Throw it out when they weren’t looking?

I ended up leaving it alone because I didn’t feel like the hassle of fighting with my neighbour and creating an uncomfortable situation.

While it may sound like I’m on a rant, I do want to be part of the solution so here’s my idea, pass a law with consequences for offenders. Put an illegal sign out? Get a fine. 9 out of 10 times there there’s a number and company name on the sign so it isn’t that hard. I know for real estate, the Real Estate Council of Ontario mandates that all advertisement must have the brokerage name and contact information so that will be easy enough.

To accomplish this I would use the parking enforcement officers to do this and even hire a few more to cover the extra work load. I’m willing to bet there’s a good revenue source from this and if businesses start being fined $200 for every $2 sign that has to be removed I think people will think twice. It’s a win win win all around. The city will look nicer, and there’s potential for additional revenue. Give it 6 months like this and you’ll probably see a 90% reduction in offences.

What do you think Mississauga City Council? Are you willing to take a stand?