Update: Public notice advertising under threat in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) will be meeting February 3-6 and will be voting on a motion to lobby the Saskatchewan government to change the Act that currently says most public notices are required to the advertised in a newspaper circulating in the municipality.

SWNA advised all member newspapers of the threat to public notice advertising and prepared an ad for all newspapers to run, educating the public with a clear call to action to contact elected officials with their concerns.

“We need to get ahead of this and make it known that proper public notice needs to be given and that the “public” nature of newspapers not only assures that the best attempt to reach the people in Saskatchewan has been made, but also that the proof of that notice will forever be recorded and archived.  

The SWNA has put together an ad that makes this situation to your public to voice their concern to their respective elected mayors and councillors. We encourage you to use this and help protect your local public notices.”

The Prince Albert newspaper was the first to tackle this issue with overwhelming public response.  Residents responded to the ad by calling the mayor to express their concern and complain about removing public notices from the newspaper.  Newspaper advertising clearly works according to Steve Nixon, executive director of SWNA.  “Not only are newspapers being read, but the angry calls from readers proved that they care about keeping the public notices in them. That was the point of the ad.”

The resolution in question was put forth by the town of Pilot Butte, a town that is covered by the Quad Town Forum newspaper.  Publisher Brad Brown contacted the mayor of Pilot Butte for an interview and published a front page article on the issue in his January 24th issue.

“On its face, the proposed resolution seems to be asking for accommodations that are already in place. It doesn’t outright specify removing the provincial requirement for municipalities to publish public notices in a local newspaper.

Yet it’s the only reasonable conclusion, since there’s nothing in the current legislation preventing any municipality from already using digital means to publicize their public notices in addition to the local newspaper. (The RM of Edenwold, Town of Balgonie and Town of White City, to name just a few examples, have already been doing this for years.) 

In a Friday conversation with The Forum, Pilot Butte mayor Peggy Chorney explained that she sees the motion as both a nod to rural communities that are not currently served by a local newspaper and a contingency plan for communities that may not be served by one in the future.

“We’re not anti-newspaper,” she said, expressing concern over how many residents of smaller communities would see local notices if legislation required them to be placed in the nearest city newspaper.

Regardless of the reasoning, know this: A “yes” vote at SUMA to Pilot Butte’s motion, in conjunction with a successful lobbying effort afterward, will have a profoundly negative impact on the free flow of information in your community, local employment opportunities, the health of your local business community, attendance at local events, preservation of local history, and recognition of your friends’ and neighbours’ accomplishments, to say nothing of your own voice in town.”

Saskatchewan publishers should contact SWNA for more information.