Bill C-509 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
Merv Tweed Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
(This bill did not become law.)
- March 9, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
March 9th, 2011 / 6:35 p.m.
The House resumed from March 7, 2011, consideration of the motion that Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the third time and passed.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
March 7th, 2011 / 11:20 a.m.
Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House today to again speak in support of Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). I commend the member for Brandon—Souris for bringing this important issue forward.
It is important to begin by reiterating what the book rate is and the important objectives that it serves.
Since 1939, libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced postage rate, the so-called “book rate”. It allows libraries in our country, particularly smaller branches often in rural Canada, to access the much larger collections of urban centres at manageable costs. It also provides all Canadians with access to specialized local collections held in particular branches.
The bill before us today seeks to ensure that continues to be the case and, in so doing, that public libraries across the country continue to thrive and grow.
With apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader in possession of a curious and lively mind must be in want of a library. Public libraries are the lifeblood of Canadian communities and nowhere is this more true than in the many thousands of smaller and remote communities that dot our country. Libraries mean all Canadians, regardless of geography, language, income or ability, have access to novels and magazines, information services, textbooks, CDs, DVDs, Wi-Fi and computers, and often, as well, to local cultural treasures and specialized collections.
However, more than this, public libraries are meeting places. This is where toddlers and their exhausted parents gather to enjoy a story or a puppet show together; where teenagers come for movies and music and, occasionally, even to study; where workers explore career or travel options; and where seniors attend a seminar or find that perfect book to help them build their granddaughter's tree fort. Libraries promote social inclusion, literacy, skills development and lifelong learning. Libraries are a safe haven. Somerset Maugham said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life”.
In my hometown of Hamilton, we are blessed with an incredible library system. The Hamilton Public Library offers an extraordinary range of books, programs and services. With its 24 branches, two bookmobiles and virtual branch system, here is just a taste of what the Hamilton Public Library has to offer our community: resume writing workshops, pottery painting classes, storytime for newcomer families, youth advisory group meetings and reading and homework clubs for teens across the city. It also houses the Leonardo Sciascia collection, the collected works of the famous Sicilian novelist, essayist, short story writer, non-fiction writer and dramatist.
The Hamilton Public Library, like thousands of others across the country, is more than just bricks and mortar and books. A library is the sum of the wealth of knowledge that every patron brings to it. A library is a classroom, a playground, a neighbourhood and a sanctuary.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Hamilton Public Library, the staff, the volunteers, the board and the patrons for making our library a centre for all that is good in our community.
If the House will indulge me for just a moment, I will share author Philip Pullman's eloquent telling of his own love of books and libraries. He said:
But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination.
And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?
Public libraries are, indeed,a central thread in our very social fabric but, as with so many aspects of our lives, libraries, too, are facing a rapidly changing landscape. We live in the world of the Internet, Kindle and other e-books. Technological change has brought a huge transformation to the library system that I spent so much time in, both as a kid and as a student.
That change has been embraced by our public libraries and they have risen to the challenge of innovation. That is why it is so important that the bill before us today broadens the definition of library materials to ensure that audiovisual materials, such as cassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, are also eligible for the book rate, which currently applies only to books.
However, it is not just about adapting to new technological formats. In the knowledge-based 21st century economy, it is essential that libraries continue to provide access to their immense collections.
In the information age, it is critical that libraries are able to provide a breadth and depth of research and reading material to meet the needs of a richly varied demographic, speaking a multitude of languages. And, because each of Canada's libraries, obviously, cannot house the enormously varied inventory that Canadians need to access, public libraries must be able to share their inventories.
Canada's library collections are a national asset and, thanks in part to the library book rate, they are accessible to all Canadians through a resource-sharing network among branches. Inter-library loans ensure equitable access to a composite Canadian library collection of some 465 million items available to all Canadians through their local libraries.
As the Canadian Library Association explains:
The Library Book Rate provides special postal rates for libraries to ship books to other libraries and to readers, allowing libraries to loan more books and encourage more reading. The Library Book Rate is especially important to Canada’s rural and remote libraries by helping Canadians borrow books regardless of where they live. Special rates for shipping library books have been in place since 1939 but are subject to regular review. Without the special Library Book Rate, libraries would pay over $10 for the same service they receive for $0.81 today.
That kind of increase in expenses for individual libraries would clearly be disastrous. As legislators, we must act to ensure that never happens. That is why this bill is so important.
As members in the House will know, the book rate expired in 2006. Since that time, Canada Post has continued to offer the book rate but without a formal agreement with the federal government. With the amendments introduced at committee, this bill would ensures the book rate is protected by legislation and that, in turn, will allow libraries the financial certainty they need to plan for the future.
I was particularly pleased to see an amendment made to the bill in committee that would require Canada Post to seek approval of the House of Commons before there is any increase in the rate. As members will recall, this was the one issue that I was deeply concerned about when I took part in the debate at second reading.
As it was originally drafted, it was the Governor in Council, which is really the cabinet, that had to approve requests for a rate hike. Such decisions are made behind closed doors and without the benefit of any public input. It was important to me that local institutions as important as our public libraries had the benefit of participating in the decisions that will ultimately affect them. By returning the decision-making power to the House of Commons, such participation is not only possible, it will be actively sought out. I commend the member from Brandon—Souris for agreeing to that important change.
A further amendment to the bill would ensure that the definition of library materials will be reviewed at least every 10 years to keep the legislation as current as possible. With the fast-changing technological advancements that we are seeing, this amendment is as welcome as it is necessary.
Access to learning and information is fundamental to society and to a knowledge-based economy. For that reason, it is critical that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, must have access to a broad selection of books and media.
Public libraries are the great social equalizers and promote essential public policy we can all agree on: literacy, knowledge, learning and community. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”.
In closing, I have one final quote from everyone's favourite author, Dr. Seuss, who said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
March 7th, 2011 / 11:10 a.m.
Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-509 introduced by our colleague from Brandon—Souris. I want to commend him for his initiative and diligence. I know how long he has been working on this. He is a good member of Parliament and works hard. Although I have not had the pleasure of seeing him chair committees, I have heard from others that he is a wonderful chair of the committee, being very fair and reasonable. Therefore I particularly want to commend him on Bill C-509, as well as my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville, who has been supportive and worked hard on this file.
This bill, as people know, is about the book rate. Bill C-509 is an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). It has had various incarnations before. The history of this bill is well known to people in the House, having been documented in debate on the bill's previous incarnations. The book rate has existed for a long time, since 1939. There are 2,000 libraries using the rate. In 1997, the rules were changed so that the book rate would not to be funded by the Government of Canada, the result I think of the WTO, but instead by Canada Post.
This bill has the support of a number of people, including a person who is very important to me, someone who has been my constituency assistant since I was elected in 2004. I snatched her away from the Dartmouth library. She is very passionate about books, literacy and the work of libraries. She told me that if I did not support this bill, she would not be my employee. For that reason, for Peggy and many others, I am pleased to support this bill. I want to let the House know that Peggy Landes has worked for me these six and a half years and will be leaving me at the end of this month to go on to better pursuits with her husband, but her work will continue in my office.
The Canadian Library Association, in a toolkit it prepared, indicated three reasons the book rate is very important. I want to read those into the record. The library book rate:
Ensures equitable access to documents located in libraries across the country and made available to all Canadians;
Supports the intellectual needs of remote northern and rural communities; and
It is the principle underpinning the concept that the collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians and as such supports education and lifelong learning as well as helping to maintain Canada’s global competitiveness and productivity
There is an issue with productivity in this country. There are demographic pressures coming down the street and staring us in the face right now. We are going to need more productive employees in this country and more people with post-secondary education. Frankly, we do not have high enough literacy rates, even though we have a very educated population. We need to do everything we can to ensure that people are educated to the extent of their abilities, not only for their benefit but also of the country as a whole. More and more Canadians are going to need post-secondary credentials. If they do not get them, the problem in Canada of jobs without people and people without jobs will continue and likely get worse, because people have not been matched with those jobs.
I want to support this bill from the point of view not only of rural communities but also of people with disabilities, a group that I spend a lot of time with. There are many Canadians with disabilities who do not have access to some of the benefits that many other people do. They use libraries to a high degree and we need to ensure that continues to be the case.
When we look at ways of improving and building Canada, recognizing where we are in the world and understanding how to go forward, we come across things like libraries, museums and other cultural institutions. In my own community of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, there is the new Dartmouth library. I say it is new though it was built in about 1988. However, it is a fabulous improvement over the old library and has become part of the regeneration of the downtown Dartmouth area, and has served a very significant purpose. Moreover, in the spring of last year, the Woodlawn Public Library opened up.
Libraries like these can be fabulous gathering places not just for adults but also for children in particular and, in many cases, for seniors. These people come together not only to enjoy the library but also the benefits it provides in terms of being a community gathering spot for people to exchange ideas and to catch up.
I want to mention museums. There is the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, which is really only a shell of what it could be. As a young guy, I grew up in the great community of Dartmouth. I was one of seven children and my father was a doctor. He used to leave us at the old Dartmouth museum and go across the bridge to deliver a baby, and would come back two, three or four hours later and we would still be there looking at the models in the museum.
It is a shame that the old Dartmouth museum is now mostly housed in a warehouse in Burnside. We need funding for the new Dartmouth museum and I will fight for it. As well, the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm that recognizes the heritage of the great farming community of Cole Harbour and people like Melvin Harris and many others who have helped to build that community.
In terms of culture, Dartmouth is the home of hockey. If the member for Kings—Hants or other members from areas like Windsor, Nova Scotia, Kingston, Ontario or even Montreal, Quebec were here they would dispute that. However, I encourage them to have a look at the book, Hockey's Home: Halifax--Dartmouth by Martin Jones which clearly documents that hockey started on the lakes in Dartmouth.
I mention all these things because we cannot go wrong when we fund and continue to support those cultural institutions like libraries, museums and interpretation centres. I think of the Shubenacadie Canal that runs through Dartmouth and all the way through Nova Scotia. It is now going through a capital campaign. These are the things that government needs to be involved in.
I also want to address literacy. I have spoken many times on this issue in the House of Commons. For a nation as wealthy as it is, Canada has very high illiteracy rates. We have had cuts to literacy over the past few years, notably the first year of the present government. It cut literacy to the tune of $17.7 million. It disempowered local literacy organizations.
One of the saddest meetings I have had as an MP was not with somebody in my own constituency but from a neighbouring constituency who came to see me. He said that he did not have a lot of education but that he had a job and was able to take care of his wife and kids. In fact, he was offered a promotion but the problem with the promotion was that he was afraid he would be forced to take the literacy test. He thought it might not only kill his promotion but might put his current job in jeopardy.
Those are the Canadians we need to be helping. It is the Canadians who not only do not have the skills but those who do not have enough and those who need to upgrade their skills. Literacy, being a key component, is a key reason I commend my colleague from Brandon—Souris for bringing this bill forward.
Disadvantaged Canadians, whether they are people with disabilities or low income families that cannot afford to buy new books, these are people who benefit from the book rate. I want to commend librarians from coast to coast to coast. I think of the librarians I knew when I was growing up in the schools and in the Dartmouth Library. They are very patient people who do not ask for very much except for those things that through their efforts will benefit other Canadians. I think we really need to encourage that.
In Nova Scotia, one of the great pioneers of children's literacy is Dr. Richard Goldbloom, a pediatrician and Order of Canada recipient. He is one of the most significant and dedicated pediatric surgeons in this country. He started a program at the IWK-Grace Health Centre. When kids were born, the parents, regardless of income, all received a package of books to take home so that these parents could read to their children on a regular basis. All families received this package of books and, for some families, it made a huge difference. We need to encourage literacy from the earliest days.
Some people might suggest that we do not need early learning and child care in this country, perhaps believing that children do not start to learn until they are six years old. We know they start to learn as soon as they are born or even before that and literacy is important. I think that keeping the book rate ties into that issue very well.
I want to read a letter from the Canadian Library Association that all MPs received. It was dated last May and speaks to the fact that once again it is pleased to offer its support to my colleague's bill. It reads:
[CLA and] the entire library community remains concerned about the sustainability of the Library Book Rate, which contributes to the public policy goals of literacy, lifelong learning, inclusion, and vibrant communities.
I thank people like Heather Neish who sent a letter to me from my constituency encouraging this to continue. I thank all the people who have worked in libraries in my own community of Cole Harbour, Dartmouth and all across Canada, and people like Peggy Landes who brought words, not just markings on a page but words that bring meaning to life for Canadians.
I again commend my colleague from Brandon—Souris for this most important bill. I am sure all members in the House will support it.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
March 7th, 2011 / 11 a.m.
Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about the importance of literacy for Canada and Canadians. In particular, in speaking to Bill C-509, introduced by my colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, I am particularly pleased, as the son of a librarian, to be supporting this bill.
I am pleased today to highlight some of the government's ongoing investments in and support of this vital skill and to speak about the important role that the library book rate plays in supporting literacy.
Improving the literacy and essential skills of Canadians is a key part of the government's commitment to building a highly skilled, adaptable and competitive work force. The ability to read is just one aspect of the essential skills today's workers need in a competitive marketplace. Others include document use, numeracy, writing, oral communication, working with others, continuous learning, thinking and computer skills. These are skills that many of us in our daily lives take for granted.
Recognizing how important and fundamental these skills are, the Government of Canada invested $38 million in 2010-11 in the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. This office serves as a national centre of expertise in literacy and essential skills that complements the work of the provinces and territories in adult learning. It works to ensure that Canadians have the skills they require to participate fully in the labour market and their communities. It does this by developing and sustaining networks of pan-Canadian coalitions and bringing together the key organizations and partners that play a role in literacy and essential skills across Canada.
The office plans, develops, tests and disseminates new ideas, tools, and strategies for effective interventions in literacy and essential skills, and supports organizations and institutions in bettering literacy and other essential skills in their activities and policies. Through the work of the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, the government provides core funding to literacy coalitions across Canada. It also supports a number of innovative projects that work with businesses to design and test new approaches for addressing the essential skills challenges of workers.
In our global economy, a highly skilled population is a key asset for any nation and is fundamental to economic growth. Globalization and new technologies have propelled us in this knowledge-based economy. Reflecting this, the occupational composition of Canada has shifted toward occupations that require higher levels of education and skill. A knowledge-based economy requires workers who can adapt quickly to changing skills and requirements. Literacy is fundamental to this adaptability. Without literacy, it is difficult to keep up with the rapid evolution of working environments, let alone the increased computerization often required. In order to preserve Canada's competitiveness in today's global economy, it is essential to invest in workers who will be ready and able to keep up with these changes.
There is little doubt that essential skills like literacy contribute not only to the national economy but also to people's personal, economic, and social wellbeing. These essential skills are key to someone's ability to realize their economic and social potential and are the foundation upon which they acquire additional knowledge and skills throughout their lives. Positively associated with good health, employment stability and remuneration, literacy enables people to participate in their communities, to make wise community decisions and to construct social networks.
However, these skills also have to be understood and appreciated for their large social implications in the 21st century. Essential skills, especially literacy, are linked to civic participation, community building and the development of social institutions. Without these skills, there is an increased risk that certain groups could be excluded from these kinds of social and civic activities.
A lot of work remains to be done to improve literacy in Canada. About 9 million individuals or 42% of working-aged Canadians currently score below the minimum literacy level required to function well in a knowledge-based economy. There is evidence of a significant gap in literacy rates between rural and urban Canadians. The gap is found in our schools, with remote students not performing as well on average as their urban counterparts, a trend that persists into adulthood. Similarly, the literacy performance of aboriginal populations is lower than that of the total Canadian population, especially in remote areas.
Canadians without access to information and communications technologies, who do not use computers to access information via CD-ROMs, CDs, DVDs and the Internet, also tend to have lower literacy levels than the rest of the population. Not only are they faced with a digital divide but also a literacy gap.
The key to adults' literacy proficiency and the development of literacy in their children seems to be reading at home. It increases a person's proficiency through engagement in literacy activities, such as reading books, magazines, manuals or newspapers. Libraries play a fundamental role in providing Canadians with access to a wide range of reading materials and literacy activities. With the help of Canada Post's library book rate, libraries are able to dramatically increase rural and remote library users' access to a consolidated Canadian collection of around 465 million items.
In recognition of the important role of libraries in literacy, Library and Archives Canada recently partnered with TD to support Canada's literature and literacy as part of its commitment to foster reading and literacy programs in communities throughout the country. Through this partnership, Library and Archives Canada is involved in a number of programs, like the TD summer reading club, the TD Canadian children's literature awards and, to support higher learning, the TD Canada Trust scholarships for community leadership, as well as other scholarships, bursaries and in-school programs.
These programs help children and students improve their reading skills and develop a greater interest in reading. In particular, the summer reading club increases the number of books that participating children read and teaches them to use the library to open up cultural, community and social horizons. Last summer, half a million Canadian children participated in this club, with over 27,000 events held at 1,995 libraries nationwide. Through the initiative of the summer reading club, participating children read almost 2.4 million books last summer.
Efforts to create future readers and learners and to engage current readers and help all Canadians build and maintain their skills are vital to our economic development and growth. Libraries and literacy programs are fundamental to our future for this very reason.
The library book rate, which my colleague's legislation supports, has played an important role in the sharing of these books across the country, especially with rural and remote locations. The support it has provided to libraries and their communities cannot be overstated.
It is for these reasons that I support this legislation. The library book rate will help with literacy. It is not the only or sole solution but a very small piece. However, it is a piece that helps librarians serve their communities and teachers to access new resources and helps remote students to access the entire world, not just the world on the Internet but also the world still on the printed page, and the world on CDs and DVDs. It is something that is good for our economy. It provides equality of citizenship all across the country and, more importantly, it provides access to the world in remote places all across the country.
I urge all hon. members to support this legislation for the literacy support it provides, as well as its support for remote regions and our current and next generations that are striving to build a better Canada.
The House resumed from December 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the third time and passed.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
December 9th, 2010 / 7 p.m.
Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-509 and I congratulate the member for sticking with the effort that he has put into it. He is nearly at the five-year mark now in trying to get this bill through.
I find it particularly interesting that we have a bill here that is supported by all members of the House and it takes five years to get it through the House, and it is not even there yet. In the next seven minutes we will be finishing the first hour of debate on third reading and, because of the government's policy in making certain that we proceed into the second hour, this bill will not be up again, unless it is traded up, until March.
We all know that by March we could be involved in another election. I know that when the House is prorogued private member's bills are reinstated when the government starts up again, but I believe elections do kill all bills. That is my understanding, contrary to what I read in the notes.
I find it amazing that we had all parties supporting the bill and after five years, although this bill could have made it through today, it will now be March before it makes it through, and then it has to go to the Senate, and hopefully no election will occur.
I am confident that we will be back here debating this bill again. I wish that were not the case, but certainly it is.
In reviewing some of the background on this bill I looked to the member for Brandon—Souris, whom I have known for a long time. He is a hard-working member of Parliament. Part of his backgrounder from 2009 indicates that since 1939 libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced postal rate, historically known as the “library book rate”, originally funded directly by the Government of Canada. In 1997, a ruling by the World Trade Organization required that the cost of the program be incurred by Canada Post.
I was not aware of that. I have spoken on this bill before and I had read all of the background information, but I was not aware that it was a 1997 ruling by the World Trade Organization that required the costs to be incurred by Canada Post.
I was very pleased to hear the government member say this evening that Canada Post has agreed to continue the reduced rates for yet another year.
I do know that the member has had a difficult time in attempting to ascertain the cost of this initiative. The fact of the matter is that when we do produce legislation before the House one of the things we do, whether we are in government or opposition, is attempt to try to quantify the cost to the treasury so that we can understand the extent of the issue.
The member has indicated this evening that we are looking at a potential $5 million cost item here. In previous discussion on the matter, we looked at the Ottawa Public Library, for example, where the postage increases would be in the neighbourhood of $70,000. We did the math and multiplied that by the 2,000 libraries across the country. Of course, that would be a very large increase for these libraries to absorb.
One of the other positives that the member has added into the bill is the provision that other types of media would be covered. I recognize that today we are dealing with many types of media other than just books: CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs. These types of materials should weigh a lot less than transferring actual books from library to library. This type of activity should lower the cost to the libraries over time.
The abilities that the libraries will have once they are connected with high speed Internet is another element that may have been discussed in the debates, although when I reread all of the Hansard at the second reading debate, I did not see any talk of it. We have seen a program over the last few years, starting with the previous Liberal government, to tie in municipalities, hospitals and libraries as well into high speed Internet connections so that the material can be transferred that way.
In the future I would think that books that are not actually scanned in to the Internet already will be put on line, certainly books in regional and rural libraries over time. That will be one way to be able to access material right across the country and across the world.
However, that day is not here yet. We know, for example, that in the member's own riding of Brandon—Souris, the Brandon hospital has the capability of putting X-rays on disks and sending them to Winnipeg, because the high speed connections are there. At least that was the case the last time I toured it, which was a year or two ago.
However, to deliver material to the hospital in Russell, I believe it was, the material had to be taken off, put on a diskette, taken to the bus depot and sent off to the Souris hospital so that the doctors could then decipher the material and read it. However sooner or later a high speed connection will be made and the Internet will be connected through to that hospital in that particular town, and the material will be sent directly through those connections. At that stage, there will be less and less reliance on Canada Post for transferring materials between libraries.
This is something that is very important. It really gets down to the history of the country and the connection with our rural roots. It is not long ago—
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
December 9th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).
This bill was introduced by my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris. At this time, I would like to recognize this member's efforts and his determination in addressing this important issue and moving this bill forward. He deserves to be recognized.
I would also like to commend the member for his work as chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I consistently hear positive comments from members of all parties for his work there and his efforts to be objective. I think, frankly, that has had a great deal to do with this bill moving forward, the fact that not only is he addressing an important issue but the manner in which he consistently treats all of his colleagues.
I say that because it is important. The politics of Parliament are often very divisive over very real and tough political issues, but oftentimes members of different political parties come together to address important public policy issues. That is exactly what has happened here, and it has happened under the leadership of the member for Brandon—Souris.
Why is this issue so important? At this point what I would like to do is actually read, in part, from a letter from Joan Welch, chair of the Edmonton Public Library Board, who has approached me, as frankly hundreds of Canadians, thousands of Canadians, from across the country have approached their members of Parliament on this issue, spurred by the member for Brandon—Souris.
Ms. Welch approached me and said, with respect to this bill, formerly Bill C-323:
The Bill calls for an amendment to the Canada Post Corporation Act to provide for a reduction in the rate of postage for library materials.
Since 1939, Canadian public libraries have been able to exchange books at a reduced postal rate, known as the Library Book Rate. Since 1997, the costs of the program have been incurred by Canada Post. However, financial support by Canada Post is not guaranteed. Bill C-322 would provide that the Government of Canada support a concessionary postal rate for Canada's public libraries, thus guaranteeing the long-term sustainability of the program. The legislation would also expand the Library Book Rate program to include non-print materials such as CDs, CD-ROMS, and DVDs.
As the member for Brandon—Souris pointed out, some people have moved beyond his technological expertise and have moved beyond the eight track and the VHS tape. Ms. Welch concluded:
The Edmonton Public Library Board urges you to support the passing of Bill C-322. This bill will recognize the vital and necessary function libraries perform daily in Canada. Libraries not only help educate the public, they provide life choices for their users, help promote and engender literacy, and contribute to the quality of life of people of all ages, ethno-cultural groups and demographic backgrounds everywhere.
We ask for your assistance in supporting this bill. Please also urge your fellow MPs to support it.
I am doing that here today. I do want to thank Joan. I want to thank all of the libraries in my constituency who have approached me about this issue for their efforts, frankly, in engaging an important public policy issue in an appropriate manner by contacting their members of Parliament.
Just for some background, I do want to recognize that the library book rate did expire in 2006. Since that time Canada Post, however, has continued to offer the rate without a formal agreement with the government.
It should also be recognized that Canada Post has not raised the library book rate since 2005 and has recently announced that the rate will remain the same in 2011. As a result, next year will be the sixth year in a row that libraries and Canadian lenders have enjoyed stable rates. I do wish to commend Canada Post for continuing to offer these library book rates for these many years.
Colleagues who have spoken before me have spoken very well to the substance of the bill, but I do want to address some of the other issues.
I do want to thank libraries, frankly, for their efforts on a number of issues. First, on literacy. Literacy, as we know, is an issue of national importance. It is a very challenging public policy issue.
It is one our Senate colleague, Jacques Demers, is working very hard on, and he very courageously has stepped forward to acknowledge his own challenges. He is working with a lot of the literacy organizations on a national level and moving this issue forward.
I think we should also recognize Senator Joyce Fairbairn for her work on this issue on the Liberal side in the Senate. They should be recognized for their efforts on literacy.
I also want to recognize the efforts of the government in terms of the investments they have made in literacy. I think it is very important to do so.
It is also important to recognize the role that libraries have as gathering places in all of our communities. I can recall as a youngster going down to the Southgate Library, which has since moved to a much bigger location, and whether it was books or music I was being introduced to a whole series of authors who I have enjoyed since then. In fact, it turned me into a lifelong book lover, and I think we have to recognize the role that libraries play. I would certainly like to recognize the libraries in Edmonton, Devon and Leduc, which, when I as a member of Parliament ask to have a town hall meeting, are the first to step forward and say this is an issue, this is a public forum, we need to have public forums like this. They are very responsive in terms of offering their spaces. The library close to my office in Edmonton consistently has people coming in and saying that if we have any books that we are not using and we feel may be of benefit, whether they deal with politics or Parliament or whatever, please pass these on to them and they will ensure they are accessible to people. The role libraries play in the community must be acknowledged and that is another reason why this issue is so important.
I would also like to recognize the school libraries. All of us as members of Parliament have the opportunity to speak to students of all ages and go to school libraries. I want to recognize a very special person. As a youngster, Mrs. Ryan, who was in my high school library, was one of the persons who made me interested in politics. She would recommend a book here or there. I do have to acknowledge she did not share my political beliefs, so as I was reading more of people like Friedrich Hayek and she was happy that I was reading but perhaps a little distressed at some of the material that I was reading. But people like that do need to be recognized. They do have a tremendous impact on people.
I also want to recognize the important role of libraries in terms of lifelong learning, but also the role that teachers play. One of the reasons I asked the member for Brandon—Souris if I could speak to this issue today was the fact that I am the son of two schoolteachers. My father taught math and social studies and my mother was an English teacher and she taught English as a second language for 20 years. She knows perhaps more than anyone in our family the importance that libraries have and the importance that a bill like this, if passed by this Parliament and I am fairly confident it will be, will have in terms of educating people. Because someone like her would certainly say to the House that libraries are obviously important for all Canadians, but especially for her as a teacher of English as a second language for 20 years and for new Canadians who come to this country with very little. Libraries are their window to the languages of English or French in this country, are their window to Canadian society. So many Canadian authors are introduced to them this way, and the role that libraries play for new Canadians must be emphasized as well.
I would like to finish by again commending my colleague from Brandon—Souris for his outstanding effort in pushing the bill forward. Frankly, without his leadership and without him activating people across the country in terms of petitioning Parliament, writing and phoning their members of Parliament, this issue would not have come this far. I am very confident that Parliament will adopt the bill and I wish to see it receive royal assent as soon as possible so that libraries can continue to rely on this excellent service, rely on what Canada Post provides to them, and continue to provide the excellent service to Canadians of all walks of life wherever they may live forever in this country.
I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support this important bill as it goes forward.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
December 9th, 2010 / 6:40 p.m.
Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to speak today in support of Bill C-509 and also to the importance of the library book rate.
The bill is intended to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to protect the reduced postage rate for library materials, a measure that is especially important to rural Canadians who treasure their libraries and access a wide variety of materials just as much as their counterparts in the bigger city centres.
I congratulate the member for Brandon—Souris for sponsoring the bill. I understand that he has been committed to this issue since his election in 2004. He is right in trying to ensure that the book rate is maintained. On that aspect of this initiative, we can certainly agree. This special postal rate is important for all manner of reasons, not the least of which is it protects the opportunities of many Canadians who, for one reason or another, cannot share in the kind of library experiences most people have available to them. In that respect, I believe the member for Brandon—Souris has his heart in the right place with the intent of the bill.
There are ways this legislation could be made stronger, and I will speak to that in a moment. However, it is important to look at what is right about the book rate and this bill first.
As I mentioned, the book rate has served our library community and Canadians by ensuring a reduced postal rate for library materials since it was introduced in 1939. It allows our libraries to share each other's materials at a relatively low cost so smaller libraries, for example, can have access to the larger collections that exist primarily in Canada's bigger cities. That is critically important to remember when we discuss this.
The book rate serves smaller communities, the disabled and our students very well and it sends the right kind of message with respect to learning opportunities and literacy for all Canadians. It preserves the spirit of libraries by maintaining access to materials without driving up costs. It makes it possible to be literate and educated by texts, no matter what an individual can otherwise afford.
It is that opportunity for Canadians, for students, seniors, persons with disabilities and residents of rural communities that this rate serves best. In many cases, it brings the resources to people who would otherwise be unable to get to them. If the rate were lost, how many Canadians would see their education and entertainment from library resources wither?
The book rate allows libraries to better serve the people who are able to visit them as well. It allows for interlibrary sharing and helps to provide service that extends beyond the abilities of any one institution. The low rate that allows for this effective sharing of resources must be maintained or we could see our libraries offer less access to important texts, effectively creating a two-tiered library system in our country.
I want to point out that the rich and diverse resources available in Canadian libraries are not always found in our bigger centres. The sharing of materials is a two-way street and it is often the smaller, dare I say, out of the way libraries that retain truly unique materials in their collections.
It is clear that there are good reasons for Canada Post to maintain an appropriately priced book rate and I believe this bill's inclusion of CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other audiovisual materials recognizes the changes to what libraries lend out and the evolution of how we consume information.
Still, it is important for us to take a look at how the bill could be made better and how the government could protect postal services as well.
It is not unreasonable to say that the legislation is designed to help preserve a level of service from Canada Post. It is natural then to take this opportunity to scrutinize the government's record when it comes to Canada Post, to review the way the government is asking the arm's-length corporation to operate and how it is ensuring what services will be provided by Canada Post.
With that in mind, I think it is fair to say that the intent of the bill runs counter to the more meaningful messages we see the government deliver to Canada Post and, by extension, to rural communities that rely on postal services to go about their daily business.
It is fairly clear that the idea of a lower rate for library material implies a subsidized price. To be able to do that, Canada Post needs to make money in other areas. Traditionally, one of the best ways for it to make money has been with international mail. However, the government has other things in mind when it considers the lucrative international mail market.
The Conservatives do not see it as a steady source of revenue to assist Canada Post to better serve Canadians. They see it as a way for someone to make profit. In this case, the government supports what are called remailers. The remailers are already cutting into Canada Post's exclusive privileges for international mail and the government has done nothing to stop them. If Canada Post loses this important revenue, it will see its budget slashed by as much as $80 million a year.
What happens when the fiscal capacity of Canada Post is compromised like this? Services suffer. Just ask the people of Constance Lake First Nation who went a few years without local delivery before pressuring the government to finally re-establish a post office in their community. At the time, they had to drive 40 kilometres to Hearst to get their mail. That is the kind of service the government is glad to have Canada Post give rural Canadians.
I honestly think a lot of people in this place do not understand the importance of rural and small town postal service. They cannot appreciate the way a rumoured post office closure goes through a town like a wildfire.
The constituency I represent, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, has no big city. It is largely a collection of small towns and communities that are proud of their independence and contribution to Canada. Alongside that pride is a sense of vulnerability as well. I have seen this in places like Moonbeam, Chapleau and Iron Bridge, where rumoured post office closures can truly pre-occupy a town.
There is a fix for this particular problem. That would be to replace the moratorium on rural post office closures, with a policy that specifically protects these outlets. Once again, without appropriate funding, that becomes more and more difficult to do. Therefore, it becomes a question of the government's will to ensure Canada Post is a healthy and responsive corporation that has the funding available to preserve rural postal services. That includes the kind of mail we are talking about in this bill specifically.
I will return to Bill C-509 and talk about a specific shortcoming that has been identified and spoken to by my colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain. She has already given a great speech on this legislation and has lauded the member for Brandon—Souris for his initiative. In that speech, she pointed out a critical oversight in the way any change to the book rate would be approved.
In the bill any changes to the rate will have to be approved by cabinet. This puts too much faith in the hands of too few people. If the book rate is as important as we have been saying in this debate, then it is only natural that the appropriate place to pass judgment on a change to the rates is in this chamber, where hundreds of members can weigh in on any proposal in a transparent process that ensures the voices of the communities most affected are heard. This would be a welcome change that would make the bill even better.
New Democrats are glad to continue our support of the bill and are pleased to see the addition of a parliamentary review of the materials covered by the book rate at least every 10 years.
There are a number of other pressing issues relating to Canada Post that we would like to see addressed as well and we will continue to take every opportunity to raise them in this place.
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business
December 9th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.
Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC
Mr. Speaker, in Canada and Quebec we have the Library Books Service. What, exactly, is that? It is a program that allows all libraries to send library books through the mail to other libraries in Canada, at rates that are lower than regular parcel rates. This is available to recognized public libraries, university libraries and other libraries that are maintained by non-profit organizations or associations and are for public use in Canada.
The primary purpose of the Library Books Service is to enable libraries to exchange books. Over 2,000 libraries—90% of public libraries and over 60% of university libraries—have access to this service, which can benefit a million Quebeckers and Canadians per year. This represents over 3 million packages every year. This is a vital service for all libraries, especially those in remote regions. Small non-profit or academic libraries can easily access all of the books available in Canada.
To ship books at the library book rate, a library must complete the application form found on the website of the Canadian Library Association. Delivery rates are available only through a special electronic shipping system.
Videocassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs cannot currently be sent through the library books service, and the bill would include these materials in this service.
Also known as the library book rate, or LBR, this service was established in 1939 and originally was directly funded by the Government of Canada. Canada Post gave preferential postal rates for certain types of periodicals under the publications assistance program, PAP, which was created and subsidized by Canadian Heritage.
Because of a 1997 World Trade Organization decision that preferential postal rates given to Canadian publications had to be paid directly to publishers and not via Canada Post, the cost of this rate then had to be absorbed by the crown corporation.
For the good of the public, Canada Post provides funding for the PAP within the framework of a government guideline. While Canada Post provides postal services to all Canadians, it does not have the mandate to promote Canadian culture by subsidizing postal rates for Canadian publications. This is the responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage. It should be said that postal subsidies from the PAP will end on March 31, 2010.
Since the library book rate is not considered part of the PAP, this program does not currently fall under the political authority of any federal department. Bill C-509 amends the legislation so that the crown corporation can reach an agreement with Canadian Heritage in order to maintain the library book rate and ensure the continuity of the service.
Consistent with Canada Post's obligation to ensure universal service, the service charter for Canada Post introduced in the fall of 2009 states:
As required by the Canada Post Corporation Act, Canada Post will charge postage rates that are fair and reasonable and, together with other revenues, are sufficient to cover the costs incurred in its operations.
The delivery rate offered in the context of the library book service is not funded by the federal government and Canada Post must therefore absorb the cost. Being a crown corporation that must support itself financially, the reduced rate can always be called into question and there is no regulation or legislation at this time to ensure that the reduced postage rate can be maintained in the long term.
It should be noted that in the past 30 years, the Canada Post Corporation has undertaken a major restructuring of its services in order to boost profits, even if that means going against the principle of universal postal service accessible to all and making continued attacks against the public postal service.
Although it says it continues to make a profit, CPC continues to engage in major restructuring that is having a direct impact on sectors it considers less profitable and public postal service. The library book rate is in itself a heavy burden for a company, and getting rid of the reduced rate might be a natural step for a company that is streamlining.
If the preferential rates given to libraries were eliminated or significantly increased, libraries could no longer continue to offer those services. In that case, postage could increase from $1 to over $14 a kilogram, and public libraries would have to absorb that increase, reduce services or have library patrons pay for postage.
A number of concerns have been raised with regard to maintaining the reduced library book rate. In 2005, Canada Post confirmed the possibility of putting an end to the inter-library loan program, a service that has been renewed year after year.
A brief published as part of the strategic review of Canada Post indicated that there was no official requirement for Canada Post to provide the library book rate, but that public pressure to do so has always been strong. In 2007, the crown corporation estimated that it had lost $6 million in revenue by maintaining this program.
Thanks to pressure from libraries and organizations in the library sector throughout the country, Canada Post agreed to renew the rate on an annual basis. The latest renewal will expire on December 31, 2010. After that, the future of the library book rate is uncertain, which is why Bill C-509 is so important.
Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), sponsored by the Conservative member for Brandon—Souris, in Manitoba, was introduced twice as Bill C-458 in 2007 and another time as Bill C-322 in 2009. It would reduce the rate of postage for library materials under the library books service.
First, the bill broadens the definition of “library materials” to make audiovisual materials, such as videocassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, eligible for Canada Post's library book rate, which currently applies only to books.
The second clause amends subsection 19(1) to enable the corporation to “[provide] for a reduced rate of postage for library materials” by order of the Governor in Council.
Currently, the CPC can make regulations:
(g) providing for the transmission by post, free of postage, of
(i) letters, books, tapes, records and other similar material for the use of the blind, and
(ii) mailable matter relating solely to the business of the Corporation and addressed to or sent by a person engaged in that business;
Lastly, the bill adds subsection 21(1), which enables the crown corporation to maintain the library book rate otherwise than by regulation by agreement with the Minister of Canadian Heritage regardless of regulations made under subsection 19(1) quoted above.
The Bloc Québécois supports the principle underlying Bill C-509.
The Bloc Québécois believes that access to knowledge and information is a pillar of society and the knowledge economy. That is why all Quebeckers and Canadians, whether they live in rural or urban communities, must have free and easy access to a broad selection of books.
The Bloc Québécois also believes that providing a reduced postage rate is part of Canada Post's obligation to ensure universal, accessible service.
This service has proven very useful.
Audiovisual material is becoming more and more important nowadays, and the Bloc Québécois believes that there is good reason to include it in the definition of “library materials” so that these items can also be eligible for a reduced rate.
Therefore, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-509 in principle.