Government proposed legislation to remove mandatory public notices in Manitoba Community Newspapers

26 April 2018

Dear Municipal Councillors and MLAs;

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We write to you with great concern over the provincial government’s proposed legislation to remove the requirement of municipalities and provincial government bodies to publish mandatory public notices in Manitoba’s community newspapers.

The government maintains this is an exercise to “enhance communication” with Manitobans. Yet Bills 8 and 19 merely propose replacing independent newspaper advertising with postings on government controlled websites. This is clearly not an “enhancement” of communication.

While it has been officially stated the sections of Bills 8 and 19 dealing with mandatory public notices in newspapers will not be proclaimed at this time, this remains a very concerning issue for us, as it should be for all Manitobans. The sections left unproclaimed can be enacted by government at anytime with the swipe of a pen and without notice or further public consultation.

The Government has stated its position that internet connectivity needs to increase throughout Northern Manitoba before these sections will be enacted. The Manitoba Community Newspapers Association maintains that is only part of the problem.

Of equal concern is the assumption that providing public access to information online is the same as providing public notice. It is not. To expect Manitobans to know when and where to seek out important information that will affect their daily lives — without notifying them that information exists — is wrong.

We are deeply disturbed by this Provincial Government’s eagerness to discount the value of community newspapers.

Manitoba’s community newspapers are welcomed into 399,664 homes each and every week.
Manitoba’s community newspapers are read by 80 per cent of Manitobans living in rural communities.
Manitoba’s community newspapers are relied upon by our citizens and elected officials such as you.

They provide space within their pages to keep local residents informed of what is happening within their local council chamber and within their communities, their regions and their province.

None of this happens without the support of their communities, including their elected bodies.

Recent actions by this Government has placed Manitoba’s community newspaper industry in peril.

Your citizens rely on their community newspaper. What will our communities look like without a local newspaper?

Many will argue this is a matter of money, and there’s no denying that is a part of this situation. However, Municipalities have mechanisms in place to recover some of the cost of advertising mandatory public notices.

But what is an acceptable price to pay for a duly informed public? We would argue taxpayers may have little objection to a portion of their tax dollars being used to provide them with valuable information about the activities and actions of their elected officials.

We are asking you to protect the rights of Manitobans to be afforded proper public notice, not just public access.

We are also asking you to protect yourselves from the potential fallout from accusations of obscuring valuable information by not providing public notices in your community newspaper.

Please support the requirement for municipalities and planning districts to publish mandatory public notices in newspapers IN ADDITION to postings on their websites.

Please support communication enhancement and open transparent government.

Respectfully,
Board of Directors
The Manitoba Community Newspapers Association

Ken Waddell, Pres.
Kim MacAulay, Chair
Brent Wright, Dir.
Laurie Finley, Dir.
John Kendle, Dir. 

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