MRC Prefect Jean Lalonde advocates for local newspapers
YLJ FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK
Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC Prefect Jean Lalonde expressed the importance of municipalities continuing to support local newspapers at the recent parliamentary hearings on Bill 122 at the National Assembly.
A testimonial at the National Assembly Parliamentary Proceedings on Quebec’s proposed Bill 122 saw Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) Prefect Jean Lalonde the lone voice in opposing a portion of the bill that will no longer require towns with a population exceeding 5000 to publish legal notices in newspapers. And while the bill, expected to pass in May, will have an effect on print media’s bottom line, Lalonde sees the move as having a greater cost in the threat to democracy.
Officially titled, ‘An Act mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers’ the bill says municipalities will save between $5 million and $10 million annually as towns will turn to social networks and their own respective websites to disseminate information and legal notices. This amount represents a total of about 0.05 per cent of municipalities’ annual budgets according to Brian Myles, Director of Le Devoir and spokesperson of the Coalition pour la pérennité de la presse d'information au Québec.
“There will be consequences for the quality of the press,” Lalonde told the commission, appearing alongside MRC-VS Director General Guy-Lin Beaudoin and Assistant Director Raymond Malo. “We’re aware citizens are using the internet more and more to inform themselves,” he said, “but newspapers will be deeply affected by this decision. A healthy democracy requires a healthy press.”
Lalonde, who is also the Mayor of Très-Saint-Rédempteur, is advocating for a gradual transition period as opposed to an immediate change in the law in order to allow print media to adjust financially.
“Not everybody looks at town websites.” he said. “Some of the older citizens don’t use the internet to get their news.
“I, personally, and I think the council of the MRC, we believe in the fourth estate. Government should be giving local media a helping hand,” he said. “We have good local newspapers in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and good journalists, and we want to keep our local papers.”