One of the galvanizing issues that helped start Spacing was the incremental intrusion of billboards and advertising into the public realm (what we call “ad creep”) without an ounce of public consultation. When Dave Meslin passed the torch on at the Toronto Public Space Committee people like Jonathan Goldsbie, Allison Gorbould, and Rami Tabello ran with the campaigns to try and keep the ad industry honest.
Tabello really took hold of the issue by starting IllegalSigns.ca and is widely known in the ad industry; representatives often send him tips about the illegality of signs erected by competing ads companies. He’s also received a handful of legal threats and his actions led Strategic Media to take the City of Toronto to court when the City tried to take down their illegally installed signs.
Tabello and the City have good reason to celebrate today as the Ontario Superior Court ruled in their favour. From Tabello’s press release:
The City of Toronto has won a major victory in the Ontario Superior Court against billboard company Strategic Media.
The Court ruled that the City may proceed with removing Strategic Media’s illegal billboards while Strategic Media continues with its constitutional challenge against the City’s signs by-laws.
“This is a huge victory for the City of Toronto,” says Rami Tabello, coordinator of IllegalSigns.ca. “Because Strategic Media’s suit was brought for the purpose of delay — so they can earn revenue on their illegal signs while the case drags through the courts — this decision represents a complete victory for the City.”
In paragraphs 33 and 40 of the decision, the Court found that there is “specific public interest in this case in the form of the complaints by a public interest group” which “inundated” the City with sign complaints. “The Ontario Superior Court explicitly ruled that our complaints against illegal billboards are in the public interest, and this has helped the City’s legal case immensely. Apparently, it pays to be a pest.”
IllegalSigns.ca has filed complaints against about 650 illegal billboards in the City of Toronto; about 35 of those signs belong to Strategic Media. In addition, IllegalSigns.ca has determined that all of the signs depicted on StrategicMedia.ca are illegal.