Alberta town votes to ban political crosswalks and flags on public property

Residents of Westlock backed a bylaw requiring crosswalks to be the standard white striped pattern between two parallel white lines, along with a rule that only federal, provincial and municipal flags may be flown on flagpoles on municipal property.

Alberta town votes to ban political crosswalks and flags on public property
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A town in Alberta has passed a bylaw barring political displays like rainbow crosswalks and other flags from being displayed on public property following a vote on Thursday.

Residents of Westlock, a town of 5,000 about an hour's drive northwest from Edmonton, narrowly passed the motion with 50.9% of voters supporting the push for neutrality.

The ballot question asked voters they agreed with three statements:

  • Only federal, provincial and municipal flags may be flown on flagpoles on Town of Westlock municipal property. 
  • All crosswalks in the Town of Westlock must be the standard white striped pattern between two parallel white lines. 
  • The existing rainbow coloured crosswalk in the Town of Westlock be removed.

With 1,302 votes cast, 663 supported the bylaw while 639 opposed.

The bylaw vote was not supported by local councillors, who had previously unanimously backed the introduction of the town's first rainbow sidewalk which was painted in June 2023. That decision faced pushback from residents who felt officials were bringing “contentious issues” to public spaces that are expected to remain politically neutral.

A petition was launched by the Westlock Neutrality Team, led by Stephanie Bakker, which called on the town to ensure “crosswalks and flags on public property remain neutral.”

With councillors and Mayor John Kramer campaigning against the petition, Bakker said “people are feeling a bit bullied” by the local leaders' claims “that they're doing it out of compassion and caring and wanting to make the town inclusive,” CBC reported.

“We're having a vote on neutrality and the irony is this council can't even be neutral,” said a supporter of the Westlock Neutrality in a comment to the state broadcaster last week.

Mayor Kramer, meanwhile, told CBC that “When diversity makes a home in your community, we believe there's both an incredible opportunity and also a responsibility to respond proactively in an inclusive way.”

Following the defeat on the binding vote, Kramer reiterated his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  “That won’t stop, it will just take on a different form,” he said in a press release.

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