Extra, extra: Manitoba Gazette going digital
The Manitoba Gazette is going online after 146 years as a print-only official list of provincial notices made available free of charge each week.
Meanwhile, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox tabled Bill 8 Monday that would amend 24 separate statutes so she can eliminate the requirement to publish official notices in local newspapers.
Once the Government Notices Modernization Act passes, it will be mandatory to publish government notices in the online edition of the Manitoba Gazette, but ministers will be free to decide if they wish to buy space in newspapers for their notices.
“We want to remove barriers to the way we share information,” Cox told the house Monday. "Manitobans are moving more and more toward online sources to receive their news and information. As the preferred method to share information continues to evolve, we wish to modernize our approach with the Manitoba Gazette to give Manitobans free access to up-to-date information.”
Winnipeg Free Press publisher Bob Cox doubted that many people would see notices if they're required to track down the Manitoba Gazette each week, free or otherwise.
"I think it’s good that the province is making it easier to get access to government notices; however, access is not enough on its own. I certainly hope that the province recognizes that important notices should be widely distributed and continues to use advertising to do this," he said.
"You are not notifying the public about things if you have to subscribe to the Manitoba Gazette, free or not, because not many people are going to do that. You still have to use traditional media, which reaches larger audiences than ever across the province, to advise them of changes that could have an impact on their lives."
It was not clear Monday how much money the provincial government hopes to save. KPMG's value-for-money audit told the Conservatives they can save significantly by cutting the $28.5 million it spends on communications, including $5 million to advertise in newspapers.
The Manitoba Gazette has been the official government publication since July 1871 and is used to publish government and public notices required by provincial statute or regulation, such as legal and estate notices, public hearings and name changes. Legislation also requires the government to announce certain actions in newspapers, Cox said Monday.
The Manitoba Gazette was originally distributed in print format to paid subscribers. In 2014, the province discontinued paper copies and currently emails a weekly edition to subscribers for an annual fee of $100. The province earns about $6,000 annually on subscriptions.