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Opposition blasts plan to axe print notifications

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/12/2017 (844 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

New Democrat MLA James Allum accused the Tory government Tuesday of trying to hide public information on the internet by dropping the publication of official notices in newspapers.

Among "wildly strange pieces of legislation... this one is quite something," Allum told the legislature. "This one takes essential information away from Manitobans and hides it online among billions of pieces of information."

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Sports, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox said her bill will end A $100 charge to subscribe to the <em>Manitoba Gazette</em>, the provincial government's official weekly publication of legal notices.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Sports, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox said her bill will end A $100 charge to subscribe to the Manitoba Gazette, the provincial government's official weekly publication of legal notices.

Bill 8 will make the Manitoba Gazette (the provincial government’s official weekly publication of legal notices) free online when it passes, and will amend 24 statutes to end the long-standing requirement to publish official notices in local newspapers. Cabinet ministers would still have the discretion to advertise in individual notices.

Allum said Manitobans need to see notices in print about matters affecting the environment, education, and health.

During the 2016 provincial election, Allum asked, did the Conservatives promise that ending this practice would be a priority?

Did Tory candidates say, "I’m going to fight to make sure no legal notices (are published) in local newspapers across Manitoba — I don’t believe they did that."

Allum, who once edited two small papers in eastern Ontario, said the loss of revenue will hurt community papers. "Local newspapers rely on that advertising to make ends meet."

Liberal MLA Judy Klassen argued many First Nations and other communities in the north have no access to the internet.

"It provides a source of income for local newspapers," and especially French-language papers whose readers need government information in their first language, added New Democrat Greg Selinger.

Sports, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox said her bill will end the $100 charge to subscribe to the Manitoba Gazette, made under the former NDP government.

"This bill is about providing more information to more Manitobans, in one location. All of us have moved to a digital era."

Manitoba is the last government in Canada to put its gazette online for free, she said.

It was not clear Tuesday whether any other region has axed the requirement to publish some government information in newspapers. Individual acts vary when it comes to requiring specific government actions to be published in a newspaper, an official with Saskatchewan’s ministry of justice said.

"In some situations, that will still be a requirement" but at a minister’s discretion, Cox said. "This bill is absolutely about improving access," she said.

KPMG advised the province in its value-for-money audit to chop as much as possible from its $28.5-million annual communications budget, which the consulting firm said includes $5 million for newspaper advertising.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 8:13 AM CST: Edited

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