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Proposed bylaw chooses website over newspaper as primary notification

County website proposed as primary place for statutory notices

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY – Mountain View County council has given second reading to a new bylaw that makes advertising of statutory notices on the county’s website the primary means of resident notification. It also requires publication of the notices in the newspaper.

The move came during the recent council meeting following a public hearing at the June 10 council meeting.

Changes to the provincial Municipal Government Act allow municipalities to pass an advertising bylaw enabling them to develop alternative means of accomplishing the historical advertising requirements under the act.

In the past, the county has notified residents of bylaws, resolutions, meetings, public hearings and other action through the newspaper and by mail or delivery to residents.

Christopher Atchison, director of legislative services, told council that advertising primarily on the county website would allow the county to “start the clock” on notices immediately after being approved by council.

The original proposed bylaw read, in part, that the county will advertise statutory notices on the county’s website and “may also choose to advertise” by other means, including newspapers.

Murray Elliott, publisher of The Albertan, spoke during the June 10 hearing, calling on council to reconsider the proposal to make advertising of notices in newspapers optional.

“I would argue making information accessible online doesn’t mean the public is necessarily well informed,” said Elliott. “Publishing public notices in a newspaper is vital to public engagement and the democratic process. We serve as a third-party verifier, and offer a permanent, printed record.

“I value the strong relationship we’ve forged with Mountain View County. My concern, however, is if the relationship sours, or if there are changes in staffing, the decision to pass the bylaw making the newspaper the secondary source, could easily choose to bypass the newspaper completely.”

Several councillors voiced concern that some residents would not have adequate Internet coverage for notification only through the county’s website.

On June 10 council instructed administration to “bring back amendments to the bylaw regarding the timelines associated with the advertising online (and) adding in wording around the requirements to advertise in the newspaper the full statutory notices as well.”

At the June 24 council meeting, the updated proposed bylaw included two amendments:

• That official notice and therefore the process to start the clock on statutory notices will be the corporate website;

• That the full statutory notice be provided in a newspaper circulating within the county for one week as a convenience copy to assist in getting the information out of those residents relying on the newspaper.

Reeve Bruce Beattie, and councillors Angela Aalbers, Duncan Milne and Dwayne Fulton voted for second reading, while councillors Greg Harris and Peggy Johnson voted against.

The 60-day public petition period for the bylaw is now underway, with the bylaw eligible to come back for possible final reading on Aug. 26.

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