What is a public notice and why has the City stopped advertising public notices in the local newspaper?

Fact Check

What is a public notice?

Public Notices are informational documents published in advance of matters of public interest such as public meetings, elections, public hearings, and disposition of land. These notices inform the public of opportunities to share views and participate in local government decision-making. Notices also include information on how, when, and where the public can request further information and/or provide comments to Council.

  • For example in September the City posted several public notices, including:
    • Two for Development Variance Permit Applications (both seeking approval to build detached garages on residential properties).
    • One was a road closure application for a laneway on St John Crescent in College Heights that is being proposed to be sold to the adjacent property owners.
    • One was a public hearing notice for rezoning for a proposed multi-family development on 22nd Avenue.

Advertising public notices

Previously, the City was required under the Community Charter to advertise some public notices in the local newspaper. On October 26, 2021 Bill 26, Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021 was introduced in the Legislature and amended various sections in the Community Charter, Local Government Act and other legislation.  On February 28, 2022 the provisions for providing public notice changed giving local governments the option to adopt a bylaw to provide for alternative means of notice publication that are different than the default requirement of newspaper publishing.  

Based on changes to this legislation which no longer requires a newspaper ad, on November 1, 2022, the City changed the way it communicates statutory public notices. Public notices are no longer advertised in the local newspaper, and are instead published on the City website, shared on its Facebook page, and posted to the 1st floor bulletin board at City Hall.

This change has resulted in many benefits:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased accessibility
  • Timely: Weekly press deadlines no longer apply and a notice can be published in only hours allowing an application to move forward more quickly.
  • Cost savings for taxpayers - The cost to advertise public notices in the local newspaper is significant. In 2021, the last full year that the City placed notices in the Prince George Citizen, the City spent $141,545 in combined advertising expenses in the Development Services and Legislative Services divisions, for statutory notice newspaper publishing.

The City’s statutory public notice bylaw states that newspaper notices may still be provided if the matter affects the community at large or when significant public interest is anticipated. This flexibility allows the City to prioritize notices of greater public interest over matters that only affect a small number of residents where other methods of communication would be more effective. For instance, some land related notices include a requirement to notify neighbouring properties by letter which the City will continue to do.

Why Facebook? And how else can I view public notices?

Of 38 million Canadians, there are over 36 million internet users and 33.1 million social media users. At over 20,000 subscribers, the City of Prince George Facebook page reached 553,959 accounts in 2022. And while the City recognizes that for the vast majority of residents are most effectively reached through Facebook, alternative methods are still required.

  • The City continues to post physical public notices in the City Hall Service Centre, as well as the City website.
  • Residents can also subscribe to receive public notices directly to their email address.
  • Properties within 30 metres of a property with an active development will receive a letter delivered to them, as noted in our Development Procedures Bylaw No. 9423, 2023 (https://www.princegeorge.ca/node/5533) – section 7.11 and section 8.15. Section 466(4) of the Local Government Act gives the local government the authority to specify the distance, by bylaw, from the subject property for notice mail out/delivery.

Municipalities are required to give residents the opportunity to access public notices and provide their input. To increase accessibility, public notices shared to Facebook include the entirety of the notice as alternative text to assist those using screen-reader technology. Notices posted to Facebook also include a direct link to the full public notice on the City website, where residents can submit official comments. Comments are accepted via email, fax, or by using a comment form on the City’s website. To ensure all feedback/comments are equal and provided through the official channels and can be passed on to Council, the comments section on Facebook is turned off when public notices are posted.