A discussion with local mayors of towns and villages with Municipalities of Saskatchewan has meant communities will be required to continue advertising notices in local community newspapers.
Through the Municipalities Act, Saskatchewan communities are required to advertise “restructuring notices, local status and boundary changes; completion of assessment rolls as well as assessment notices; and the last day for assessment appeals.” Only when newspapers are unable in their area are they allowed to use other means.
The Municipalities of Saskatchewan had been lobbying the provincial government to change the act to remove the requirement if a council determined it was not “feasible or practicable” to publish a notice in a newspaper.
A bill with the Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s suggested change, Bill 194, was brought forward in the fall of 2019. The provincial government didn’t go ahead with that change, something it announced in a June 16 press release from Lori Carr, the provincial government relations minister.
Rodger Hayward, vice-president of towns with Municipalities of Saskatchewan, said they have nothing against using local newspapers for advertising public notices but questions the availability of weekly papers. Websites and social media are more far reaching and would complement the use of Saskatchewan newspapers, he said.
“I have heard the comment that we're trying to be less transparent by saying we don't want to advertise. We're not saying that. We're actually trying to be more transparent by putting our information out in more areas for people to see,” Hayward said.
Local towns and villages have the power to post notices on their websites, and local newspapers are not denying them that, said Steve Nixon, executive director of the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association (SWNA). But websites lack things that newspapers provide, he said.
“The public record needs to be the public record and a website is not a public record. We said quite strongly that public access does not equal public notice. And they were treating online access as notice to the public and of course, it’s not the same thing.”
With 58 community newspaper titles blanketing the province, there are no gaps in coverage that would exclude any town or village from posting their notices to concerned citizens, Nixon said. Three more newspapers were recently created to provide even more coverage across the province.
This has also been discussed with Carr, who has been a key player in responding to the lobbying of Municipalities of Saskatchewan, with the SWNA discussing the extensive coverage of the province with Carr, Nixon said.
Nixon feels the right decision has been made in connection to notices.