March 28, 2020

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Province may be first to axe newspaper notices

Other jurisdictions post notifications online and in print

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/12/2017 (840 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba appears to be the first jurisdiction in Canada to dump the historical requirement to publish official government notices in local newspapers if the provincial government gets its way.

And Manitoba is also the last among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to make the Manitoba Gazette free online. Other governments say they’ve been putting their gazettes online for years, but without tampering with the traditional requirement to publish everything from election information to environmental hearings to public tenders in local newspapers.

MIKE APORIUS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Manitoba could become the first jurisdiction to drop the requirement to publish official notices in local newspapers.</p>

MIKE APORIUS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba could become the first jurisdiction to drop the requirement to publish official notices in local newspapers.

That’s what Sports, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox proposed this week by tabling Bill 8 in the legislature. It would eliminate that requirement, though individual ministers would have the discretion to publish notices in newspapers of their choice.

Free Press publisher Bob Cox has not been impressed by the proposed change.

"I don’t understand what the government is doing. Modernizing public notifications is one thing. But half the legislation they have identified either already gives officials discretion about using newspapers and other media, or it does not mention newspapers at all. Is there an intent to eliminate newspapers entirely as a possible source of public notification?" he asked Friday.

"If that’s the case, it’s contrary to how a good part of province continues to get information. The things that are required to be published are pretty basic — such things as notices of public hearings on various matters and notices to creditors. Newspapers are certainly still a good vehicle for these notices."

Elsewhere in Canada, provinces have kept using past practices while embracing online publication.

Ontario: "The Ontario Gazette is the official publication of the Government of Ontario for proclamations, regulations and notices which Ontario government ministries and other organizations are required to make public," government spokesman Harry Malhi said from Toronto.

"Its authority comes from the Official Notices Publication Act, which outlines the types of notices that the Ontario Gazette is required to publish," Malhi said. "There are 96 statutes that require posting of notices in general for the province of Ontario. Of that number four must be posted in either the Ontario Gazette or a local newspaper and 17 must be posted in both.

"One statute of note (Corporations Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.38) also requires publishing in "… the official gazette of each other province in which the insurer is licensed and in such newspapers and other publications as the superintendent may require," Malhi pointed out.

Saskatchewan: From Regina, Jennifer Graham, senior communications consultant with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, said "the requirement to publish notices in the Gazette exists in various pieces of Saskatchewan legislation. Where a notice is required by an act to be published in the Gazette, there may or may not be a requirement to also publish in a local newspaper. That is, again, found in individual acts requiring public dissemination of a particular notice."

Alberta: Scott Seymour, a communications adviser with Service Alberta, said from Edmonton that, "yes, there is a statutory requirement for some items — the legislation can state that the official notice may be published in the Gazette, or both in the Gazette and in a local newspaper. "There are about 30 in all that require notification by newspaper publication.

He cited as examples notices for elections, Workers Compensation Act meetings, hearings under the Municipal Government Act, Business Corporations Act notices of proposed amalgamations, and Surveys Act notices of when land is surveyed. Choosing which newspapers usually depends on the legislation or where it makes sense to do so, Seymour said.

"For example, with the Surveys Act the notice should be published in a newspaper where the land is to be surveyed — the local newspaper to the area where the land is."

Meanwhile, some of the premier’s political staff have justified Bill 8 on Twitter. Cox’s press secretary, Andrea Slobodian, said, "I don’t believe government notices were created as a way to help journalists do their job or fund their work.

"This isn’t about saving money, it’s about modernizing and improving access as the preferred method to find information shifts online. If departments opt to place print ads to reach their target audience, government won’t save much," she tweeted. Deveryn Ross, Premier Brian Pallister’s speechwriter, tweeted, "I wonder how many people purchase newspapers for the legal notices, or even bother to turn the page to where they are, and then read them. Not many, I suspect. Those who do are motivated enough to find them online."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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