The Peace River Regional District says the sudden closure of the Alaska Highway News and Dawson Creek Mirror has left a communication gap in Northeast B.C, but will explore options to reach rural residents and satisfy community bylaws.
Internet connectivity isn’t a guarantee in the Peace Region, and many residents relied on the local newspapers to access public notices advertised by the PRRD.
“The primary reason that a newspaper was one of the accepted means for this, is that it did actually get out to almost all of the residences that have an address,” said Area B Director Jordan Kealy at the district board's meeting this week. “That they’d have access to it. Where you look at internet and other source, there’s a lot of people that still don’t have internet.”
Smaller print publications do exist, such as Chetwynd’s Coffee Talk Express, Tumbler Ridgelines, and municipal bulletins in communities like Pouce Coupe and Hudson’s Hope.
However, those publications are distributed only in their respective communities, and would not meet region-wide requirements and needs. Bulk mail out of PRRD notices would also be too expensive and is not a practical solution.
In February 2022, B.C.’s Community Charter legislation was amended to allow local governments alternative means of public notice other than publishing in a newspaper, as long they adopted a public notice bylaw specifying a minimum of two other means of publication.
The PRRD’s current bylaw states public notices must be published in a newspaper that is distributed at least weekly.
“Not everyone follows us on Facebook or watches our website, but those are more and more becoming the options that we have available to us,” said PRRD corporate officer Tyra Henderson.
Henderson added that the public has a right to be notified and the regional district will seek input on suitable methods to release future notices.
“Without those newspapers, we have to look outside the box to get to everybody and that’s going to be the challenge,” said PRRD Chair Leonard Hiebert.