OMAC Frustrated With By-law Meeting

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

The Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada members came away from the Nov. 4/09 meeting regarding Toronto’s potential Sign By-law (see our Oct. 29/09 article) extremely disappointed by the outcome of the meeting.

“From the outset, the industry has supported the need for a new sign by-law that provides proper regulation but, instead, we are getting a restrictive new by-law and punitive taxes that will cripple our industry financially and affect people’s jobs and revenue,” an exhausted Rosann Caron, OMAC president, told us. The meeting, to have begun at 1:30 p.m. started two hours late and ran through until 10:30 p.m. It included no less than 50 deputations. On hand supporting OMAC were members of the Association of Canadian Advertisers, the Institute of Communication Agencies, and the Canadian Media Directors’ Council.

“To top it off, the Project By-law Team hid its economist until after all 50 deputations were made so the industry could not question his assumptions,” says Caron. “When committee members asked a few simple questions at the end, the economist admitted he had never studied critical issues such as the amortization rates for new sign permits or the impact of location-based pricing of individual sign faces.

“Nothing had been tested. The by-law is based on assumptions and inaccurate information that has not been field tested to determine its actual impact on our industry.”

And even though the industry has not been properly consulted or listened to throughout this process, the Planning and Growth Committee has decided to forward the Project Team’s recommendation to the Toronto City Council to pass the Sign By-law and need for a tax for the Council meeting Nov. 30 and Dec. 1/09.

However, while the Committee supported a billboard tax, the City’s By-law Project Team was directed to review the tax proposal and its economic impact and report back to Toronto City Council.

“They have not shared their rationale for the tax,” says Caron. “And we have no report from the economist nor have we seen one. This is not a fair, open or transparent process between the City and the Outdoor industry.”

OMAC members are now demanding that the Project team follow proper due diligence and field test the by-law as well as provide access to its economic report before it goes to Council to ensure there is proper scrutiny before a new by-law and tax is passed into law.

“We have no idea where they ever found a figure of $10.4 million tax,” says Caron, who says that the next step has to be a lobbying effort.

“What we have to do now is to try and meet with each individual City Council member,” she says. “How can they put a tax in place without having studied its impact on the industry!”

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