Sylvan Lake town council passed a new Advertising Bylaw with a vote of 5 to 2 during its April 24 meeting.
During the regular council meeting, community members spoke out against the bylaw change, which aimed to move advertising of public notices required by the Municipal Government Act (MGA), including bylaws, resolutions, meetings, public hearings, etc., and no longer required them to be printed in the newspaper.
With the new bylaw, the town aimed to have more flexibility with how they could provide notices. It would give them the option to put the information on the town’s website, social media account or in the local newspaper.
“While the newspaper was seen as the best method for communicating important government business that could reach the largest number of citizens in the community, with the increased use of technology in our everyday lives and the mix of landowner make-up, the opportunity to electronically advertise upcoming meetings, bylaws, public hearings, or other things enables the Town to reach a greater audience,” town staff said.
In order to clear up some concerns brought forward in the public hearing about reaching a greater audience, Mayor Megan Hanson brought forward an amendment, which would require the notice to be posted using at least two options, instead of only one.
“I would like to propose an amendment under the advertising methods where we talk about one of any of the following methods including posting on the town’s website, posting on the town’s social media or in the local newspaper being used. I was wondering if it would be any cause of concern to change that to a minimum of two of the following methods needing to be used instead of one,” she said.
“That way, in case of an emergency it could be filed through social media and our website ensuring that we’re not just putting our notice in one place and increasing the possibility that it will be seen.”
Council members agreed with the amendment presented but some still wanted the guarantee that there would be notices made available in print and not just online.
“I want the paper to always be one of the methods we use to advertise, and I am still not satisfied in regards to the potential of seeing it in print,” said Coun. Ian Oostindie.
People in the community of Sylvan Lake enjoy and value the Sylvan Lake News, he said.
“I was at the door this summer talking to literally hundreds of Sylvan Lakers and I was actually shocked at my age to see people say that they read about things in the newspaper. The newspaper was their source of information about the council and I have value in it from that experience.”
During discussion, councillors said they understood the angst around the situation, however, the intent of the current council is to still advertise using the Sylvan Lake News.
“I think the angst here is probably the fact that right now we aren’t planning to change our practices but probably somewhere along the line somebodies not going to be the same as we are,” said Coun. Graham Parsons.
While members of council stated posting online would only be done in means of an emergency there is nothing in the bylaw to prevent the ability to only post online when it is not an emergency.
“We could add in the event the newspaper can’t print this in time because of emergency circumstances then we use online means because this is why we are doing this bylaw,” Coun. Kjeryn Dakin said.
In response Coun. Jas Payne commented on how the town couldn’t create a bylaw full of exceptions and added how he believes there to be a fear of eliminating the newspaper.
“I feel like there is a fear of getting rid of newspapers, we enjoy the paper. I just think if we are going to mandate that we have to use the paper what are we doing? There is no point in doing any of this, may as well put it aside and continue our practice,” Payne said.