PRINCE GEORGE City outside workers here are wondering if city hall is censoring free speech to avoid criticism of its policies and priorities.
City hall has accused outside staff of failing to obtain a variance before strategically placing signs on public boulevards. The signs are critical of city halls failure to maintain infrastructure like streetlights, sidewalks and road paving.
The city has demanded that CUPE Local 399 remove the signs within 72 hours. They have threatened the local with a fine of up to $5,000 if it doesnt comply.
What is city hall afraid of? asked CUPE 399 president Kevin McConnachie. The workers are also asking city council and senior management to give the real reasons for the demand.
While we have now applied for the variance, we dont expect that city hall will approve the request, McConnachie said. They just dont seem to like the idea of their workers publicly asking them the same questions that the public asks us.
City bylaws seem to be inconsistently applied, he added. One organization was given seven days to remove its signage and threatened with a much smaller fine than the CUPE workers. The B.C. Rail campaign, which Local 399 workers endorse, may not have even been required to have a variance.
Its time people were made aware that senior staff and elected officials make the decisions about the quality of services, not workers, said McConnachie. We want those jobs done, but we take our orders and follow priorities set by our superiors.
Whether Local 399 is forced to remove its signs or not, it will continue its campaign to ensure that people are informed. The city may succeed at censoring our signs on public property, McConnachie said, But soon theyll begin to see signs on their constituents lawns and find messages in other places.
Kevin McConnachie, CUPE 399 president, (cell) 250-961-1196.