Robert Barron Citizen
A proposal by the Cowichan Valley Regional District to change the way it advertises its public notices is raising concerns in the local seniors community.
The CVRD wants an amendment to the Local Government Act that would replace the mandatory requirement to place public notification advertisements in local newspapers.
The district is recommending that the province adopt a new policy that would enable local governments to choose their own manner of providing public notice “tailored to best serve their local communities.”
The rationale behind the proposed amendment, which will be sent to the next convention of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities for consideration, is that advertising the notices in local newspapers “can be very challenging” for regional districts, since newspaper circulation areas do not necessarily align with regional district boundaries.
The ongoing closure of “many” regional papers is also a factor in this initiative, the CVRD says.
But many local seniors, who aren’t computer literate and rely on their local newspapers for information, are concerned about the move.
Vicki Holman, executive director of the Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation, said the proposed amendment indicates a “disregard” by the CVRD of the seniors in the district.
“Many seniors are not connected online and still look to the newspapers for information that’s important to them,” Holman said.
“If they take the public notices out of the local newspapers, many of our seniors will be oblivious to what the regional district is doing, including its hospital development programs which are very important to seniors,” she said.
Ian Morrison, the CVRD’s director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said the intent of the initiative is not to constrict the availability of public notices, but to make it easier for the public to access them.
“I don’t know if the intent of this is stop the mandatory requirement that all public notices must be placed in local newspapers,” Morrison said.
“There is a high readership of newspapers here, so it makes sense to continue placing public notices in the newspapers where it’s practical. But it’s a fact that some local papers, like the Nanaimo Daily News, are now gone and we have to consider other means to get these notices out there.”
Morrison said using online and other sources would greatly enhance the district’s communication abilities.
He said the initiative still has to get through several layers of bureaucracy before any changes are considered in the Local Government Act.
It must first be debated and passed by the AVICC and then the Union of B.C. Municipalities before any negotiations with the government would begin.