Public access does not mean public notice

The government has an obligation to inform Canadians about programs, services, policies and decisions.  Research proves that Canadians want to see government advertising like public notices in newspapers.  And in smaller, non-urban communities the local community newspapers is the main source of information and best suited to communicate information from public notices.

News Media Canada features this research in a fact sheet available here.

The purpose of public notice is to display information in places where the public is likely to come into notice. Traditionally and effectively, newspa­pers have published public notices because newspapers spark curiosity and are de­livered to the interested public. Access to public notice provides the public an op­portunity to influence governing bodies and be an active participant in a democratic society.

In Manitoba this has become a contentious issue as the provincial government tables a second bill in an attempt to remove the requirement for government to notify the public of important actions and events.

“This means that Manitoba will become the first province to back away from a centuries-old tradition of democratic governments being required to use independent media to alert citizens of govern­ment-related activities that may cause citizens to take action,” stated Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Instead the government would prefer to just post these notices on their own website or in their own digital publications.  According to Kim MacAulay, Chair of the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association (MCNA and Publisher of The Clipper Weekly and the Lac cu Bonnet Clipper, “what this government fails to recognize is that making valuable informa­tion ‘accessible’ online is not the same as ‘notifying’ the public that information exists. Public access is NOT public notice.”