+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution ER1-20F

Financial Support from RMA for Appeal of Legal Decision Regarding Vehicle/Trailer Billboard Signs Along Roadways

November 1, 2020
MD of Foothills
Planning and Development
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta ruled in favour of the Respondent (Foothills County) on September 8, 2020 on their argument that while vehicle-advertising signs (also known as trailer billboards) along roadways constitute a protected form of commercial expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, those constitutional rights can be reasonably restricted by local governments; and

WHEREAS the Applicants have filed a Civil Notice of Appeal with the Court of Appeal of Alberta on October 7, 2020; and

WHEREAS Foothills County has borne the cost of $97,087.50 to date to respond to the successful decision on the originating application at Court of Queens Bench of Alberta;

WHEREAS Foothills County’s legal counsel estimates that remaining legal costs will be in the range of $18,970 – $30,330 to complete of the appeal process; and

WHEREAS the implications of this decision would potentially affect all Alberta municipalities in their ability to regulate signage along roadways; and

WHEREAS as per Rural Municipalities of Alberta policy (FIN-04: RMA involvement in Member Legal Matters), an endorsed resolution is required to support member legal appeals that have been heard by a provincial or federal Court;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, through financial resources, support Foothills County in the legal fees associated with the appeal of the previous Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta decision empowering municipalities to reasonably restrict vehicle signs (also known as roadside billboards) in an act of solidarity as the outcome of this case is imperative for all municipalities that regulate signage along roadways in Alberta.

Member Background:

Successful decision for Dentons and Foothills County: Judge upholds bylaw banning ad-bearing trailers (Published by Dentons September 21, 2020 https://www.dentons.com/en/whats-different-about-dentons/connecting-you-to-talented-lawyers-around-the-globe/news/2020/september/successful-decision-for-foothills-county-in-alberta-judge-upholds-bylaw-banning-ad-bearing-trailers)

In a judgment rendered September 8, 2020, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Nick Devlin ruled that while vehicle-advertising signs along roadways constitute a protected form of commercial expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, those constitutional rights can be reasonably restricted by local governments.

Foothills County’s bylaw banning vehicle-advertising signs was at issue in the case.

Justice Devlin determined that protection of the community’s visual environment is a pressing objective sufficient to justify a limit to the right of expression, and that the bylaw advanced that objective in a fair and rational manner. By providing a number of available alternative forms of signage the bylaw was held to only minimally restrict expression.

In balancing the beneficial and detrimental effects of the bylaw Justice Devlin stated:

The law recognizes that our visual environment is a resource all citizens are entitled to enjoy, and that it can and should contain personal and commercial messages of a quantity and quality that do not despoil it. By analogy, regulation in this area seeks to hold the line between being occasionally spoken to and constantly shouted at. Insisting that large roadside signs are modest in number and are complimentary to the overall nature and aesthetics of the community as possible, is a constitutionally appropriate balance.

This favourable decision for Foothills County ratifies the time and careful consideration taken by County Council and Administration in crafting planning regulations respecting signage and advertising.

In this case, Dentons Canada represented Foothills County with a team led by Partner Sean Fairhurst and Associate Emily Shilletto.

For more information about the decision, read the article published by the Calgary Herald on September 10, 2020, or the official judgment.

This resolution seeks member support for the enactment of RMA policy FIN-04: RMA involvement in Member Legal Matters to assist Foothills County in addressing the appeal filed by the Applicants on the original September 8 ruling. Relevant information within the policy includes the following guidelines:

  • “It is only through an endorsed resolution that the RMA will become involved in member legal matters. For the purposes of this policy, member legal matters include only legal appeals that have already been heard at least once by a Provincial or Federal Court. Subsequent appeals will only be supported by the Association through a new member-endorsed resolution.” (Guideline 1)
  • “The RMA will contribute 25 per cent of the legal costs up to a maximum of $10,000 in any member legal appeal.” (Guideline 7)


  1. Civil Notice of Appeal Filing with the Court of Appeal of Alberta 2020.10.07 – Civil Notice of Appeal
  2. RMA Policy FIN-04: RMA involvement in Member Legal Matters FIN-04 RMA Involvement in Member Legal Matters Policy
RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Provincial Boards and Organizations:
Back to Resolutions Database