At its meeting July 14, Rocky View County (RVC) council put another nail in the coffin of its commitment to effectively inform ratepayers about County business. It will no longer advertise approved development permits in the newspaper.
This shift away from newspaper advertising is deeply concerning. The Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires local governments to advertise proposed bylaws, public hearings and other matters of public interest. Government decisions need to be made in public and people must be informed so they can participate.
In the past, the MGA required local newspaper advertisements or, failing that, mailings to every residence in the affected area. Recent amendments permit substituting electronic advertising if, but only if, the council is satisfied that electronic advertising will reach “substantially all” residents.
Council concluded that notifications posted two layers deep on its website “satisfies” these new requirements - despite more than 10 per cent of RVC’s residents having no Internet service and many others having marginal service. How are these residents supposed to obtain this important information?
Today’s busy lifestyles make it difficult to seek information in multiple locations, so people rely increasingly on media. In RVC this means the Rocky View Weekly. It would be one thing if the County directly emailed the 90 per cent of ratepayers who have Internet. Instead, council believes ratepayers should make repeated trips to the County's website just in case there is new information. To make matters worse, the County has made no effort to advise ratepayers of this change.
Last November, administration committed to continue advertising in the newspaper. However, at the meeting July 14, this same administration stated that they had “existed for close to six months without using newspapers.” From our perspective, the clear message is that the County is happy without newspaper advertising. They assume because no one has complained everyone is happy.
Council’s Strategic Plan claims it is committed to improving customer service. How does removing advertising from Rocky View Weekly fit with that commitment? Especially given that our news is drowned out by our urban neighbours, making Rocky View Weekly the only source for local news and information. A quick review of other municipalities in our region shows they still advertise in their local newspapers on a weekly basis. This raises the real question – what is so different about RVC? Do RVC ratepayers not deserve the same level of information as ratepayers in other municipalities?
RVC insists it supports local business and encourages its residents to do the same. If that commitment is real, why isn’t it supporting our local newspaper? To do so would satisfy two important objectives – make it easier to inform ratepayers and support a local business that residents rely on as our only source for local news. Arm’s length news is the cornerstone of democracy. The County’s efforts to marginalize our newspaper suggests that it would rather control its messaging than encourage readership of an objective news source.
Rocky View Forward