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.

Sponsor

Merv Tweed  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of March 24, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Post Corporation Act to provide for a reduction in the rate of postage for library materials.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • March 9, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

March 7th, 2011 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

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.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

March 7th, 2011 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

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 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

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

December 9th, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to sponsor this bill that seeks to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to include the library book rate.

The importance of the library book rate to Canadians can be clearly seen in the sheer volume of petitions that I have tabled before the House over the past few years.

These are petitions representing the support of hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadians for a reduced rate of postage for library materials. Bill C-509 is my third attempt to enshrine the library book rate into the legislation, and thanks to the support of my colleagues from all parties, I am confident that this bill will finally become law.

The library book rate is a highly discounted postal rate offered by Canada Post. This discounted rate has existed since 1939, and it is used by libraries to reduce the cost of offering inter-library loans and helps to provide equal access to printed library books for all Canadian readers regardless of their location, whether they live in rural or urban or remote Canada, everywhere.

The use of the library book rate has not changed significantly since its inception despite advances in access to electronic library materials. From 1996 to 2005, the library book rate was run in accordance with a memorandum of agreement between Canada Post Corporation and the Department of Canadian Heritage regarding both the library book rate and the publications assistance program.

As many of us are aware, the publications assistance program was replaced by the Canada periodical fund on April 1, 2009, and so no longer exists.

The memorandum of agreement between the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada Post for the library book rate was allowed to expire in 2006. Since that time, Canada Post has continued to offer the rate without a formal agreement with the government.

While the rate has been continuously offered since 1939, it is not referenced in either the Canada Post Corporation Act or its associated regulations. The rate is a traditional offer by our post office that Canada Post has continued to respect. In fact 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, and Canada Post is to be commended for continuing to offer subsidized library book rates these many years.

The library book rate is an unregulated parcel rate, and Canada Post determines the library book rate on an annual basis as it does for all of its unregulated rates. The rate is far lower than normal parcel rates and can be used only by public, university and non-profit libraries to send books. Based on a per item cost by weight and destination, the library book rate covers shipping both to and from the borrowing library or individual library patron.

In 2006 to facilitate the processing of library book parcels, Canada Post developed the library book shipping tool in association with the Canadian Library Association and l'Association pour l'avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation. The tool is provided to libraries free of charge and has been used for the library book rate since 2007.

I think we all agree that Canadian library collections are a national asset, one that thanks in part to the library book rate is accessible to all Canadians through a resource-sharing network among Canadian libraries. Inter-library loans ensure equitable access to a composite Canadian library collection of some 465 million items to all Canadians through their local libraries.

Libraries are also a cornerstone for public information, literacy and early childhood activities across the country as well as offering services to new immigrants and supporting citizen engagement. The resource sharing enabled by the library book rate makes it possible for libraries to support a wide range of formal and informal education, research, literacy and lifelong learning pursuits of their patrons and communities.

More than 2,000 libraries actively use the library book rate, and an estimated one million Canadians benefit directly from it annually. Approximately 65% of volumes mailed under the library book rate are destined for libraries and library users in small towns, rural locations and remote communities, thereby allowing these users to access collections held in libraries across the country.

What is more, the library book rate is of capital importance to minority francophone communities. It allows francophones, regardless of where they live, to access books in French.

The library book rate also allows users to access local material found only in rural community libraries. It enables libraries to ship books to those users whose access to libraries is limited, such as remote residents and those living with disabilities or any impairment that prevents them from visiting their local library.

Library associations and users have long been encouraging the government to make more than just books eligible for this highly discounted postage rate. Library collections have changed significantly over the last several years. They have expanded to include new materials as technology changes. For example, CDs, DVDs and books on tape are now common components of library collections, facilitating access to those with a print disability and those who enjoy alternative formats.

This bill not only seeks to enshrine the library book rate in the Canada Post Corporation Act, but it also seeks to enshrine a wider definition of library materials, including new media materials.

It must be clearly understood that expanding the program to include other materials as well as books will increase the cost of offering this rate for Canada Post. I believe over time that rate will go down based on the weight and content of the products that will be shipped in the future.

The corporation already pays for the majority of the real costs for shipping books under the library book rate, and expanding the program will increase the corporation's costs in line with user uptake. But it is a matter of public policy rather than one of profit-making for the crown corporation.

The library book rate is an important and traditional offering by Canada Post. The library book rate is in keeping with the best Canadian traditions of ensuring universal access regardless of where Canadians live in our vast country. Nonetheless, it is clear that many Canadians would derive greater benefit from the library book rate were it expanded to include other library materials.

These are the reasons I have presented this bill. I thank our government and members of the opposition for offering their support for the same.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

December 9th, 2010 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to participate in the third reading debate of Bill C-509.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, for his numerous introductions of this bill and his commitment to the cause.

I commend my colleague for putting forward a valuable modernization of the Canada Post Corporation Act. I also want to thank the member for accepting my amendments in committee.

As my party's crown corporations critic, I continue to support this bill because it is good government policy, and I have suggested that my caucus do the same.

My party does support greater service for, and more affordable access to, library materials for Canadians in rural and remote areas, seniors, new Canadians and those with disabilities. We support a reduced postal rate for all library materials and we support the new definition of library materials to include all forms of modern media.

I participated in the debate at the committee stage of the bill. We amended the definition of library materials in clause 1 to include a more comprehensive list of new modern media, books, magazines, records, CDs, CD-ROMs, audio cassettes, video cassettes, DVDs and other audiovisual materials.

This is a valuable expansion of the definition and takes into account the current reality of choices among consumers both young and old. It leaves the door open for the quickly changing and ever-evolving modern media environment.

Also, in clause 3, we required Canada Post Corporation to come before Parliament to request an increase in the library rate.

Finally, through my amendment, the committee added in section 21.2 a review of the definition of library materials to be considered at least every 10 years to keep the legislation and the always varying list of new media as current as possible.

This bill and its amendments will protect the library rate for many years to come.

Canada Post offers libraries, both public and university, a reduced rate to move books not only back and forth across the province, but the country as well. Bill C-509 will put this discounted postal rate into legislation and keep it there. The original intent was to allow libraries to feel confident they were not going to wake up one morning without any consultation and find that the rates had either been increased to full retail or to some other amount.

Canadians rely on the book rate for transferring materials across the country. Libraries have become dependent on the book rate. It allows them to transfer materials around the country.

It is imperative that our libraries continue to be well stocked. There was a concern that larger metropolitan libraries would stockpile or hoard some of the more modern media that is available without the ability to transfer them affordably. The bill will assist in a very cost-effective way of transferring these materials and hopefully put a stop to the stockpiling.

On maintaining the library book rate, the Canadian Library Association, CLA, lends its full support to the bill, and rightly so. It explained that over 2,000 libraries across Canada rely on the library book rate for transferring materials back and forth. Canadians from coast to coast to coast, especially students, new citizens, the disabled and those living in rural and remote communities, are able to take full advantage of the system.

Quite simply, the fact that libraries can share hard copy materials with one another at an affordable rate allows people to obtain information on a regular basis.

As we know, information is king, knowledge is eternal and we in the Liberal Party stand for lifelong learning. By implementing Bill C-509, libraries would be able to ship all forms of modern media across the country at a reduced postal rate.

As the CLA pointed out, it is imperative that we retain the preferred library book rate for many reasons. Without a sustainable library book rate, the CLA stated the following concerns:

First, it would create a two-tiered service for Canadians: simply those who could afford to borrow materials and those who cannot.

Second, material would be difficult to obtain if it is not regularly transferred between libraries. This would make things very difficult for the elderly, students, the disabled and rural residents.

Third, it would put added pressure on libraries to recoup costs and remain viable due to a lower supply and ultimately fewer visitors.

Fourth, it would strain smaller libraries. Their ability to loan would be in jeopardy due to a lower supply and would lead to diminished lending.

As the member for Brandon—Souris pointed out in his speech back in May, the library book rate has been in existence since 1939. Libraries have become dependent on the rate and it has allowed them to transfer material affordably across the country. Although Canada Post has kept the rates at reasonable levels throughout the years, it has periodically increased them in order to keep up with inflation and other economic factors. Bill C-509 would put an end to that.

The bill addresses the concern that Canada Post could ad hoc increase the library rate by requiring it to obtain a mandate from Parliament prior to doing so. We achieved this in clause 3 as amended in committee.

By expanding the definition of which materials can be sent at a reduced postal rate, we are better serving Canadians from coast to coast to coast and especially in remote and rural communities. I am in full agreement that as technology advances, Canadians have a desire to keep up with the trends and the need for advanced information as it grows. It is imperative that our libraries are well stocked with modern media and that they share it with as many libraries as possible. Without such measures, there is a growing concern of stockpiling material and not sharing it with the smaller rural libraries. They simply could not afford to transfer the material and smaller libraries would definitely suffer as a result.

In this modern day of Internet, speedy file transfers, email, social media and large broadband, it is refreshing to know that I can still walk into a library and borrow a tangible item like a book, a newspaper, a music CD, a movie, a DVD and even an e-book. I know that the residents of Mississauga—Streetsville feel the same way. For this reason and for those that I have raised earlier, we have a responsibility in this place to maintain this fundamental right for all Canadians.

Once again, my colleague from Brandon—Souris has my full support. I will be voting in favour of Bill C-509. I encourage my caucus members to do the same and I encourage all members to follow suit.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

December 9th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

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.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

December 9th, 2010 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

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 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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 / 7 p.m.
See context

NDP

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

September 30th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise with pleasure to participate in the discussion on this private member's bill, Bill C-509.

I, too, thank my hon. colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, for his numerous introductions of the bill and his commitment to this cause. I realize that he has introduced this bill several times since 2007, and his tenacity needs to be commended.

I have worked with the member in his capacity as the chair of transport, infrastructure and communities committee. He has always shown fairness in his rulings and has a strong understanding of procedure.

As my party's critic for crown corporations, I will be supporting the bill at second reading and have suggested that my caucus do the same. My party does support greater service for and more affordable access to library materials for Canadians, Canadians in rural areas, in remote areas and seniors, and Canadians with disabilities. We support a reduced postal rate for all library materials and we support the new definition of library materials to include modern media.

I do, however, have a few concerns that I will address later.

The substance of the bill is two-fold. First, that Canada Post receive approval from the Government of Canada prior to any increase in the library book rate; and second, that the library book rate include the shipping of new media materials, such as CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other audio-visual materials. I will be addressing both issues in that order.

First, I will deal with maintaining the library book rate. I have a letter from the Canadian Library Association, CLA, dated May 14 of this year. In the letter the association shows its full support for the bill, and rightly so. It goes on to explain its reasoning, and I could not agree more.

Over 2,000 libraries across Canada rely on the library book rate for transferring materials back and forth. Canadians from coast to coast, especially students, the disabled, seniors and those living in rural areas, should be able to take full advantage of this system. Quite simply, the fact that libraries can share hard copy materials with one another at an affordable rate allows people to obtain information on a more regular basis.

As we know, information is king, knowledge is eternal and we in the Liberal Party stand for lifelong learning. As the CLA pointed out, it is imperative that we retain the library book rate for many reasons. Without a sustainable library book rate, the CLA has the following concerns: First, that it would create a two-tiered service for Canadians; simply those who can afford to borrow material and those who cannot.

Second, that material would be difficult to obtain if it were not regularly transferred between libraries. This would make things very difficult for the elderly, students, the disabled and rural residents.

Third, that it would put added pressure on libraries to reckon costs and remain viable due to lower supply and, ultimately, fewer visitors.

Finally, that it would strain smaller libraries. Their ability to loan would be in jeopardy due to lower supply and lead to diminished lending.

Those reasons alone are good enough for me to support the bill. However, another concerning issue in the CLA's letter is the fear that the current library book rate is scheduled to end unless it is renewed by the end of the year. If this is true, we as parliamentarians must do what is right and extend the library rate without hesitation. The timing of the bill is impeccable and it is the perfect vehicle for doing so.

As the member pointed out in his opening statement in his speech back in May of this year, the library book rate has been in existence since 1939. Libraries have become dependent on the rate and it has allowed them to transfer materials affordably around the country. Although Canada Post has kept the rates at reasonable levels through the years, it has periodically increased them in order to keep up with inflation or for other economic factors.

The bill addresses the concern that Canada Post could, ad hoc, increase the library rate by requiring it to obtain a mandate from Parliament prior to doing so. I am in agreement with this notion but once again I have some concerns with costs.

On the matter of sustaining the library rate and costs, I would like to get some friendly clarification from the member for Brandon—Souris, which I will seek at the conclusion of my time. The second half of his bill deals with the addition of modern media, such as CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other audio-visual materials to the library book rate.

I am in full agreement that as technology advances, Canadians will have a desire to keep up with current trends. The need for advanced information grows.

It is imperative that our libraries are well stocked with modern media. Without such measures, the growing concern is that this material might be hoarded at larger metropolitan libraries and not shared with smaller rural libraries, because they simply cannot afford to transfer them. Smaller libraries would definitely suffer as a result.

In this modern day of Internet, speedy file transfer, email, social media, and large broadband, it is refreshing to know that I can still walk into a library and borrow or lend a tangible item like a book, a newspaper, a music CD, a movie DVD, or even an ebook.

I know that my constituents feel the same way. For this reason, we have a responsibility to maintain this fundamental right for all Canadians.

I have spoken in favour of this bill and will continue to support it. However, I have some concerns regarding the sustainability of the library book rate, its effectiveness, and compensation measures and subsidies.

For the benefit of speedy passage of this bill to committee, I will not be putting forward any amendments today. However, I would like to express my thoughts as this bill continues to move forward through committee.

First, I ask the hon. member if he has considered ensuring that Canada Post maintains a library book rate in perpetuity.

Second, how often can Canada Post seek an increase in the library book rate? What is the time frame? When will this bill confirm that Parliament's approval is necessary before the rate can be increased?

Third, I want to address compensation to Canada Post for the loss in revenue. In speaking to representatives of Canada Post, I have learned that it currently loses $5 million to $6 million per year as a result of the reduced library rate. While I agree that this is a cost of doing business, a small cost to pay for maintaining such an important aspect of our society, I would like to know if the hon. member has considered compensating Canada Post for the losses through an order in council.

Finally, we need to look at the matter of subsidy. Has the hon. member determined the value of the subsidy that Canada Post provides to libraries? This important question was raised in the first hour of debate last spring.

Once again, I will be voting in support of Bill C-509. I have urged and will continue to urge my caucus colleagues to do the same. In fact, I urge every member to follow suit.

Before I end, I need to voice one final concern. This concern has to do with party principles and policies.

To my knowledge, the question of the library book rate came to light in 2006. While I commend my friend, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris, for taking the lead on this issue, I do not understand why the government would not simply have addressed the issue of the library rate in a more responsive and timely manner.

Why has it taken four years? Many options were available to them: adopting it as a government bill, making a regulatory change, or seeking an order in council.

Unfortunately, this speaks volumes about the government's lack of connection with average Canadians, as well as their lack of direction and execution.

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris has my full support for this bill at second reading and for sending it to committee. I look forward to seeing the bill in committee and raising the concerns I have mentioned.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

September 30th, 2010 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of the library book rate, specifically Bill C-509, which amends the Canada Post Corporation Act to protect the reduced postage rate for library materials.

I commend the member for Brandon—Souris for bringing this important bill forward and for his tenacity in pursuing it ever since he was first elected in 2004. I wholeheartedly agree with him that maintaining the book rate is crucially important for a whole host of reasons, some of which I will enumerate shortly. I hope the member will understand that I also have to put this bill into the larger context of this government's record on issues related to Canada Post, learning, and literacy. While that context does not in any way detract from his personal efforts to do the right thing with this bill, it calls into question whether this bill, even if passed, will meet its desired objective.

By way of background, for those who may have just tuned into the debate, I should explain what the book rate is. Since 1939, libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced postage rate. That is what is known as the library book rate. It allows all libraries in Canada to access one another's reading materials at relatively low costs, so that smaller libraries, for example, have access to the larger collections that exist primarily in urban centres. That is critically important.

First, the book rate ensures that we do not end up with a two-tiered library service, one for those who can afford to pay for access to information and one for those who cannot. This would jeopardize the access of Canadians to the resources necessary to learn, innovate, and prosper in the information economy of the 21st century. Access to library materials should not depend on the size of one's wallet but, rather, on one's thirst for knowledge.

Second, Canadian students, persons with disabilities, and residents of rural communities would be particularly disadvantaged, since they rely heavily on their local library's ability to share resources with larger centres.

Third, it would severely reduce access to books for people living in rural and remote parts of Canada.

Fourth, it would reduce the level of service libraries provide, possibly forcing the program to operate on a cost-recovery basis, with patrons and learners having to bear the costs. Such user fees would discourage many patrons from making mail-based borrowing requests.

Fifth, smaller libraries would stop providing lending services and, in turn, would only borrow materials.

Sixth, it would deprive the rest of the country of the ability to access the unique information resources often preserved in our local libraries.

Seventh and last, it could easily result in denying access to library materials for people who are homebound.

For all of these reasons, it is imperative that there be some control on increases to the book rate. I applaud the member for Brandon—Souris for using this opportunity to ensure that from now on the library book rate would also apply to the shipping of CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and other audiovisual materials. This is important for keeping pace with the changes in technology that have allowed us to access information in new formats, and in fact these new formats may over time actually reduce the cost to Canada Post since CDs weigh far less than books.

In the end, however, Bill C-509 does not prohibit an increase in the book rate per se. Instead, it simply says that any such increase must receive approval of the Government of Canada. The bill suggests that it is the Governor in Council who must okay an application for a rate increase by Canada Post, and the Governor in Council is the cabinet.

I am sure the member for Brandon—Souris made this proposal in good faith. Indeed, when he spoke to the bill he said that it would ensure that Canadians' voices will be heard on this sensitive issue before any rate changes occur. However, if that is truly his intent, why would his bill not stipulate that requests for increases to the library rate must be approved by Parliament instead of the Governor in Council? It is in the House of Commons that the voices of all Canadians are heard through their elected representatives.

The same is not true of the cabinet. Yet the viability and vitality of Canada's public libraries is, or at least should be, of keen interest to every single MP in the House. It is unfortunate that Bill C-509 excludes a review by all of the elected members who have libraries in their communities, and, as a result, it needlessly circumscribes the scope of the arguments that ought to be brought to bear on any request by Canada Post to raise the library rate.

I know that some members of the House will suggest that I am being alarmist and that the distinction of whether it is the cabinet or the House of Commons that must give its sign-off is one of mere semantics, but I suspect most of those members would be from the Conservative benches. Only in their caucus must members act as they are told by the Prime Minister, without any ability to bring independent thinking to the decision-making process. Indeed, that has been the hallmark of the Prime Minister's administration.

Let us recall what the government's track record is with respect to both literacy and Canada Post.

Let us begin with the latter. Just before the end of the last session of Parliament, the House was dealing with Bill C-9, the government's budget implementation bill. What do we find in that bill? We find an attack on Canada Post's exclusive privilege to handle international letters.

I have twice before had the privilege of speaking on this issue in the House, so I will be brief today.

At the heart of the issue was that international mailers, or remailers as they are commonly known, collect and ship letters to other countries where the mail is processed and remailed at a lower cost. In doing so, they are siphoning off $60 million to $80 million per year in business from Canada Post.

Yet Canada Post needs that revenue to provide affordable postal service to everyone, no matter where they live in our huge country. In fact, one ruling by the Court of Appeal for Ontario stressed the importance of exclusive privilege in serving rural and remote communities and noted that international mailers are not required to bear the high cost of providing services to the more remote regions of Canada.

Canada Post won this legal challenge against the remailers in the Supreme Court. What did our law-and-order government do in response? It stood up for the international mailers, who are currently carrying international letters in violation of the law.

The Conservatives are allowing them to siphon off business from Canada Post, and they sneaked the enabling legislation into the budget bill.

What does that have to do with the library book rate? There is an integral connection. Canada Post would raise the book rate as a way of increasing its revenue stream so that it can continue to meet its mandate. This revenue crunch is now becoming a reality, because the cancellation of Canada Post's exclusive privilege to deliver international letters is taking a $60 million to $80 million bite out of the corporation's coffers.

Why would we trust a government that is hell bent on leading Canada Post down the road to privatization to safeguard affordable rates for access to library materials? It does not make sense.

We know that private corporations are driven solely by profit motives, and subsidies for things like the library book rate detract from that bottom line.

Similarly, the notion of trusting the government to protect access to library materials as an important tool for improving literacy in our country flies in the face of the government's record on the issue.

When the Conservatives came to power in 2006, one of the first things they did was cut $1 billion from critical programs, including literacy and skills training. Yet there was and is a preponderance of evidence to prove that education is critical to achieving a just and prosperous future.

Even the C.D. Howe Institute, which is hardly an NDP think tank, has repeatedly noted that Canada continues to under-invest in education, especially since research shows that the impact of functional literacy on productivity and GDP is three times that of capital investments.

In spite of that evidence, the Conservatives cut their support for literacy training and left to fend for themselves the 42% of Canadian adults who have, by international standards, an inadequate functional literacy level.

In light of that record, it is far too much of a stretch to suggest that the government would act decisively to protect the library book rate on behalf of Canadian families. In fact, the opposite is much more likely to be true.

Therefore, while I have no quarrel with what I believe is a sincere desire on the part of the member for Brandon—Souris to safeguard the library book rate from arbitrary increases imposed by Canada Post, I would ask him to go just one step further. Do not give cabinet the responsibility for final approval. Make the issue come to the floor of the House of Commons and allow the views of all Canadians to be brought to bear on this crucial issue. Only in this way can we be assured that the collections of all libraries are recognized as national assets that must be accessible to all Canadians, so that they can support education and lifelong learning and help to enhance Canada's global competitiveness and productivity.

I know that all members of the House would support that laudable goal.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

September 30th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the member of Parliament for Brandon—Souris, for working so diligently for so many years on the library book rate. I congratulate him for finally being able to get up in the draw and have his bill brought before the House, which has been so wildly endorsed by our government and by all members in the House.

I also thank the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for his support and understanding in working with the member for Brandon—Souris in developing the bill and ensuring we are addressing the needs and the concerns that have been expressed by our libraries across Canada.

Bill C-509 seeks to enshrine the library book rate in the Canada Post Corporation Act by including the definition of what library materials should be in the act and by giving Canada Post the ability to regulate the rate charged to libraries for shipping these materials, subject to Governor-in-Council approval.

The bill is very straightforward and to the point. First, it would expand the list of library materials. Second, it would give Canada Post the power to regulate the rate. Third, it would provide for the Department of Canadian Heritage to enter into an agreement with Canada Post to continue the library book rate. I will speak to these three points.

First is the expansion of the list of library materials. As currently offered, the library book rate is only available for books. There is a historical reason for this. Back in 1939, and for most of the last century, books made up the lion's share of the collections in all our libraries. New material, such as CDs, DVDs, books on tape and other media, are relatively new developments in the course of history. When the rate was first established, these materials were not even envisioned. For the past couple of decades, the library community, including in my riding, have been calling for this rate to be expanded beyond books to include all this new technology media, which are increasingly important as part of their collections.

While library material other than books are being shared and sent between libraries right now as part of the parliamentary inter-library loan system, they do not qualify for the library book rate. The rate is significantly discounted by up to 95% of the regular parcel rates available to all Canadians at a Canada Post counter. Not surprisingly, libraries would like to take advantage of these great rates for all the materials that they provide to their clients and libraries.

The libraries in Selkirk—Interlake are telling me that if they did not have access to the library book rate, what right now only costs them a few thousand dollars a year to access the great collections across the country and bring those collections into their libraries would cost them tens of thousands of dollars a year. That is not acceptable. Our libraries need to keep those dollars to invest in their programs and their facilities to accommodate the increased usage that we see in our libraries.

As public institutions, libraries are always seeking ways to minimize their costs at every opportunity, while maintaining their important services to all Canadians. As we all know, cost savings in one area mean more money for another. This would enable our libraries to increase their investments in educational services or in their collections through increased acquisitions.

Rural libraries are totally dependent upon being able to access the greater collections in larger centres such as Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa and bringing those books into the rural communities for our clients.

Our constituents are seeing the value in having access to these materials, whether they are books, CDs or books on tape, which is really expanding and growing in our area. My rural libraries are telling me that they are seeing a real increase in usage. In some cases, they have seen, over the last five years, usage within their libraries go up almost fourfold and that has put an increased burden on them to bring in more products, more books and new media to satisfy the ever-growing appetite of constituents for new material. This is something that has impacted upon their budgets and they have told me that we have to ensure that the library book rate is available indefinitely.

What we are seeing is a real mix of users. We have youths coming in who are making use of the computer programs. They love this new media that they cannot necessarily go out and get at the store. We are seeing students doing their continued research through their library systems, as well as accessing huge collections to feed their ferocious appetites. My own kids have great reading appetites and like to have access to a number of different series of books, which they do not have to go out and purchase themselves if the library provides them with their membership.

Seniors are not only there to access books, but they love this new media as well. Books on tape are becoming an ever-increasing need and desire for my constituents.

Second, the bill seeks to give Canada Post the power to make regulations to prescribe a discounted rate of postage for library materials. This is in line with a number of regulation-making powers that Parliament has given to the corporation, including the ability to make regulations prescribing what is a letter, what is mailable and the rates that it charges for these different items.

Canada Post has been continuously offering a highly discounted postage rate for library books for over 70 years. Even after Canada Post was made a crown corporation in 1981, the rate has remained significantly lower than commercial rates, and this is as an unregulated rate and unrecognized in its enabling legislation. Clearly, Canada Post understands the importance of this rate to libraries and all Canadians and the role that Canada Post plays in contributing to Canada's public policy goals. Bill CC-509 would help ensure that this would be instituted in the Canada Post Corporation Act.

Third, the bill would allow Canada Post to enter into an agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage to continue the library book rate subject to Governor-in-Council approval.

Given the importance of this rate to libraries across the country and to the development of literacy and other essential skills in our population, an agreement between the federal government and Canada Post to continue to offer this rate certainly makes great sense and good policy. After all, this rate has been continuously offered for the last seven decades and the government has had a longstanding interest in its provision. Therefore, an agreement would be useful in ensuring that the delivery of the rate is in line with the government's overall policy objectives for literacy and other related areas. In its ongoing maintenance of the library book rate, since the previous agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage has expired, Canada Post has assumed this responsibility itself and have ensured in this way that these objectives have continued to be pursued.

The library book rate has played and continues to play an important role in the development of the Canadian library system, facilitating the sharing of books between communities, regions and nationally for decades. The availability of this rate has been a constant for libraries for generations and has therefore shaped both their financial and acquisition planning. Knowing that this rate is available to them, libraries have been able to pursue collection and funding strategies that are in some ways founded on the library book rate. It is great that we are able to enshrine this now in legislation.

The key to adult literacy proficiency and the development of literacy in their children seems to be reading at home. It increases an individual's proficiency through engagement in literacy activities, such as reading books, magazines, manuals or newspapers.

Libraries play a fundamental role in providing access to all Canadians 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.

Efforts to create future readers and learners, to engage current readers and to help all Canadians build and maintain their skills are vital to our economic development and growth as a nation. Libraries and literacy programs are fundamental to our future for this very reason. The library book rate has played an important role in the sharing of books across the country, especially in rural and remote locations. The support that it has provided to libraries and their communities cannot be overstated.

Given the importance of Canada Post's library book rate in support of literacy, our government supports promoting literacy and competitiveness across the country.

I again thank the member of Parliament for Brandon—Souris for bringing forward this great bill, for supporting our libraries across Canada, supporting our readers and users of libraries. They are all going to continue to benefit from the library book rate. The book rate itself will be expanded to include so many different items that we can all enjoy.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

May 28th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

moved that Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to stand and present Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials) at second reading. It is something that libraries and communities have been asking for for years and it is an honour and gives me great pleasure to present this bill.

What is the library book rate and how did I come to learn about it? Since 1939, libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced rate, historically known as the library book rate. This allows all libraries in Canada to access each other's inventory of reading materials allowing libraries in smaller, rural and remote areas to offer the same kinds of reading materials we would find mostly in urban centres.

In the 2004 campaign I met with several communities which expressed concern that due to economic pressures Canada Post was considering withdrawing support for this program and returning to charging the standard rate for shipping books.

This I contend would cause a great hardship on Canadian libraries and by extension on the very people who are using the library book rate program. These people tend to be rural Canadians, Canadians who live in remote areas, including the north, who have limited access to libraries and the books within.

Having the ability to access the inventory of major libraries and having these books shipped to communities at a favourable rate allows many small communities to offer a larger selection of reading material without the huge cost of shipping to the local libraries. It also allows Canadians living in these rural and remote areas the same reading material without the huge personal expense of travel.

Why is the library book rate important to all Canadians? It ensures equitable access for all Canadians to documents located in libraries across the country. It supports the intellectual needs of remote northern and rural communities. It is the principle underpinning the concept that collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians, and as such, supports education and lifelong learning as well as helps to maintain Canada's global competitiveness and productivity.

As I have gone across the country many people have asked what would happen if the library book rate were to disappear.

Many people, myself included, believe that one, it would create a two-tiered library service for those who can afford to pay to access information and those who cannot. This would jeopardize the access of Canadians to the resources of Canadian libraries necessary to learn, innovate and prosper in the information economy of the 21st century.

Two, Canadian students, persons with disabilities and residents of rural communities would be particularly disadvantaged as they rely heavily on their local library's ability to share resources with larger centres.

Three, it would severely reduce access to books for people living in rural and remote parts of Canada.

Four, it would reduce the level of service libraries provide, possibly forcing the program into a cost recovery basis with patrons and distance learners having to bear the costs. Such user fees would discourage many patrons from making mail-based borrowing requests.

Five, smaller libraries would stop providing lending services and in turn would only borrow materials.

Six, it would deprive the rest of the country from being able to access the unique information resources often preserved in our local libraries.

Seven and finally, it would very, very easily deny access to library materials for people who are homebound.

My bill proposes that before Canada Post can increase the library book rate, it must receive the approval of the Government of Canada. This, in my mind, ensures that Canadians' voices will be heard on this very sensitive issue before any rate changes occur.

My bill also asks that the library book rate now include the shipping of CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other audiovisual materials. As technology changes, so do our needs for more specific types of reading materials. I believe that by including these materials, over time we would actually reduce the cost to Canada Post in delivering this very valuable community program. Imagine shipping 16 CDs to a rural or remote community as opposed to shipping 16 books. Based on the weight alone, the numbers speak for themselves at the savings that could be accomplished. The cost savings over time would be dramatic and very well may help to resolve some of the financial pressures that Canada Post is facing. I am convinced that as technology continues to evolve, Canadians will, and should, have more access to all types of reading material.

Due to circumstances, I have introduced my bill three times in this chamber over the last four years. I have been fortunate and very pleased to receive support from all across Canada. I have received responses from every province and every territory. I would like to put on the record some of those comments.

An individual from Ontario, in talking about the book rate said:

It is the principle which underpins the concept that the collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians and as such supports education and life-long learning and helps to maintain Canada's global competitiveness and productivity.

As a side note to that, the city librarian at the Ottawa Public Library suggested that if the library book rate were to be changed and increased to what would be requested, it would add a $70,000 burden to that library itself. I would ask people to think about how that would translate across the country, particularly with respect to rural and remote libraries which rely on the city's ability to send those books to them at a reduced rate.

The following comment came from New Brunswick:

The Library Book Rate supports and encourages the sharing of taxpayer-funded library books in Canada. At relatively little cost, it acts as a bridge between all Canadians, including the disabled, shut-ins, and residents in remote locations. It is also a way of creating a more literate and knowledgeable population, by helping, for example, students enrolled in distance education programs or Canadians pursuing lifelong learning goals.

This comment came from Alberta, and speaks about the library book rate and the addition of the audiovisual materials:

The addition of audio-visual materials recognizes that people are not all text-based learners and need access to information through a whole host of audio-visual and digital media.

This comment came from British Columbia and again talks about the library book rate:

At relatively little cost, it acts as a bridge between all Canadians, including the disabled, the shut-ins, and residents in remote locations. It is also a way of creating a more literate and knowing population....

Approximately 2,000 libraries in Canada use the library book rate. These libraries provide services to over one million users every year. I have received petitions, as I stated earlier, from all across Canada. I have received letters and phone calls encouraging me to press forward in supporting the library book rate.

I believe that the library book rate is a valuable asset for all Canadians. I believe that people in Canada have a right to have access to the library book rate. I believe as a government and as members of Parliament, we have a responsibility to the Canadian public that cannot access the public services of a library to provide an alternative way to move information and reading materials to those communities that so desperately need the opportunity to increase their reading and their learning.

I have learned a lot of things. I cannot say that before I got involved in federal politics in 2004 I knew much about the library book rate. Today, I would say differently, and today I would say that I understand what people are trying to do. Their goals have merit and they deserve the respect of members of Parliament. Today I am presenting a bill on their behalf to support this wonderful service, the library book rate. It is with those few words that I ask my fellow members to do the same.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

May 28th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), introduced by my colleague from Brandon—Souris, particularly since this is an emergency.

There is a persistent rumour going around inter-library loan networks, including the network in Quebec, that Canada Post is planning to increase its rates. Canada Post operates as a business and has problems of its own. Bill C-9 would take away its exclusive international remailing privilege, so Canada Post will likely face revenue losses. The Conservative government chose to adopt this strategy. It chose to take away Canada Post's exclusive remailing privilege. It was a political choice, but public libraries should not have to pay the price.

I believe my Conservative colleague from Brandon—Souris has a good grasp of the situation. He is very keen on this bill. Earlier, I suggested that he try to have it passed at report stage. I know he wants the committee to look at the bill, discuss it and have Canada Post come and explain where it will get the money. That is why I suggested we pass the bill quickly.

If Canada Post has revenue problems, it should discuss them directly with the government. It is not this service that is depriving Canada Post of revenue, because the corporation already offers reduced rates for inter-library loans and for individuals who also want to provide this service. This service is already in place, so it cannot cause a loss of revenue. The reduced rate has been in place for decades. The cause of Canada Post's revenue losses lies elsewhere. I do not want the committee to focus on Canada Post's lost revenue and kill a bill that is urgently needed.

Sometimes, we discuss things that can divide us. Some governments choose to govern that way. But a bill like the one before us is not divisive. I have not heard the NDP critics, but I am sure they will support this measure. It needs to be passed very quickly.

As our Conservative colleague from Brandon—Souris said, he has been working on this for over four years. He is introducing his bill for the third time. I hope the third time is the charm. I can offer him the Bloc Québécois' support to pass the bill at all stages. He can talk about this with his House leader in order to avoid a debate with Canada Post Corporation, which currently has problems with some of the government's other policies. I would not want this measure to be jeopardized.

I know the president of Quebec's library network quite well because she is also president of the Outaouais library network. She is the mayor of Plaisance in my riding. She is the reeve of the RCM of Papineau. I had the opportunity to talk to her about this possibility of increased transportation costs. These organizations are often run by volunteers. This is a highly important issue. They prepare an annual budget and every year she talks to me to find out what is going on with Canada Post. It is hard to give her an answer because Canada Post is a crown corporation that manages its operations independently. This corporation is governed by federal legislation. If we order it, through this bill, to maintain the current rate, it would be required to do so. I believe this is the right approach.

The hon. members will have gathered that we will be supporting wholeheartedly Bill C-509 which is before us, first because it maintains the current reduced-rate service, and second because this rate would apply to all audiovisual materials in the future.

My colleague from Brandon—Souris is a visionary. New technologies have been developed, and the public should have more and more opportunities to use them. Having the reduced rate apply to audiovisual materials would be a good way to encourage communities.

The member for Brandon—Souris talked about the significant savings that could be made by the Ottawa Library. That is right, and that goes to show the magnitude of the problem. I have heard a $75,000 figure mentioned; that is a lot of money.

Just think of the thousands of dollars that small communities could save. Public libraries in our communities in Quebec and Canada are often run by volunteers who manage funds received from generous donors.

Municipalities contribute to the network as best they can within their means. Money does not grow on trees. I believe that this bill will have an impact on all regions of Quebec and Canada. It does not matter how thick the bill is. A bill can be quite modest in length, but that does not mean that it will have a modest impact on communities.

Bill C-509 provides for a reduced postage rate for all library materials from books to audio-visual material. This is critical to the development—perhaps even to the survival—of all communities.

At the very least, libraries have to be able to offer a borrowing service for people who often do not have the means to buy these materials themselves. This is a good way to encourage parents, children and seniors to read.

This is an excellent social measure, and I would like to congratulate my Conservative colleague once again for having introduced it. I can assure him of the Bloc Québécois' support because all Quebec communities need this kind of justifiable measure.

I give him our support so that this bill will pass at all report stages because we do not want it to disappear should an election, prorogation or something else happen. Once again, we will support Bill C-509.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

May 28th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to support Bill C-509. I want to congratulate the member for sticking with it, so to speak, having introduced this bill evidently three times over four and a half years. I have known the member for Brandon—Souris now for quite a number of years. He is certainly a very hard worker and is looking out for the interests of his constituents in this case.

I see an interesting opportunity here for us to simply let this bill go to committee at the end of the first hour. I personally see no reason why we would want to use up House time for a second hour of debate on this particular bill when we are all in agreement. We are 100% in agreement on what he is trying to accomplish here.

I also find a slight contradiction, perhaps, in the member's party. On the one hand, the member is presenting a bill supporting a continued reduction in a subsidy for the delivery of library books, but on the other hand, his government is supporting hiving off remailers to the private sector and doing it through the budget implementation bill, Bill C-9.

I know there are people in his caucus who have an ideological problem with this because they would see a role here for the private sector. This would be a prime opportunity to have the private sector do private deliveries of library books. I am sure that there is a huge divergence of opinion in his caucus about this. We happen to align ourselves with him against the neanderthals in his caucus who would want to privatize this service, assuming that they are there. I am assuming that the argument has been made or would be made in that caucus.

Having said that, we are 100% behind him in his efforts to make certain that we stop the decline in rural areas, the decline in the north and the decline in the inner cities because of closures of not only bank branches, which have certainly happened over the last number of years, but certainly libraries as well. The member knows that, in the city of Winnipeg, we have had the closure of some branches in the poorer areas of our city, which has caused a huge public backlash.

People have organized and tried to stop the closure of the libraries. There has been a move toward large recreation centres in urban environments and then perhaps in rural environments as well. When there is a move to these larger centres, then there is a closing of the smaller centres. That disadvantages poorer people because the richer people can afford to get in the car and drive to the recreation centre in the next town or a few blocks down, or they can afford to drive to the library in the next town or suburb.

However, if one is living on a fixed income or social assistance and does not have a car to get around, then basically one is disenfranchised from the recreation centres or library facilities. That is not something we want to do. We want to try to reverse that. This has been an ongoing problem for the last 20, 30 or 40 years. Provincial governments have been trying to deal with it to keep people in the small towns, on the land, in the rural areas, and in the north.

I see this as just another battle that we have to engage in to stop or slow down the closure of small facilities and the driving out of business of these small libraries.

I have a question about the costs and the member knows that.

The member has mentioned that the Ottawa Regional Library would perhaps save $70,000 per year on its mailing costs. He has also indicated that currently it is paying a factor of say $3 and the new rate, if Canada Post had its way, would be to jump it to $12. It would be multiplied by a factor of four, and I think the member would agree with that calculation.

If we take the Ottawa Regional Library, we would be looking at an increase of $70,000. If we multiply that for the 2,000 libraries across the country, we are talking about a huge increase. Perhaps the Ottawa Regional Library can come up with the difference, but the small libraries in the small towns across the country will be unable to do that.

What the member has proposed is something with which we can all agree. However, it is a much bigger picture that he is addressing. This goes far beyond the whole issue of subsidizing the transfer of library books back and forth from the libraries to the people who use the books.

The library book rate is a Canada Post service has been around since 1939, as the member indicated. It has provided a reduced rate for mailing library books between libraries and from libraries to their users. Canada Post recently has announced that the current library book rates will remain unchanged to 2010.

What we are seeing is the libraries are going one year at a time, so the member is left hanging not knowing what is going to happen. This system has worked well since 1939. The issue is if “it ain't broke, why fix it?” What is to fix? I am amazed the member cannot get the financial information that he needs.

Canada Post is not privatized yet. Surely, there is a way to get some freedom of information from it to determine just how big the numbers are. However, after four years, he still has to surmise as to what sort of effect this will have on each and every library, which is why he has said that the cost for the Ottawa Regional Library is plus $70,000 a year. However, he really does not know what the total effect will be. It may be even worse than what he thinks.

We are talking about over 2,000 libraries actively using the library book rate and over one million Canadians benefiting from it annually. It is an indispensable part of the service delivered by Canada's not-for-profit academic school and special libraries.

The library book rate is not a government program and it is not currently financially supported by the federal government. The members of the library community in all constituencies continue to be concerned about its sustainability.

Given that Canada Post is a crown corporation with a mandate to generate a dividend for its shareholder, which is the government, the rate contributes to the public policy goals of literacy, lifelong learning and inclusion of vibrant rural and remote communities.

This is where we get into the intangibles. We start looking at parallels like the closure of the prison farms. The government is looking at it as a dollars and cents question, but not looking at the total effect of the prisoner getting up at 6 a.m., milking cows and communicating with nature and with the animals and taking care of the animals.

The government takes that out of the equation, as with this. It takes the fact out of the equation, that this is a much bigger issue than just dollars and cents. It is the effect that we have when people cannot get library books, when people have disabilities, visual impairments and cannot get facilities from their library. The member has also expanded this list to include DVDs and other things.

This is a good bill and we support it.