An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Merv Tweed  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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

  • Oct. 3, 2012 Passed That Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be concurred in at report stage.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

October 24th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-321, an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). I congratulate the member for bringing this forward. This is not the first time that he has done so.

Reading the summary of the private member's bill took me back to the years when I first came to Canada as an immigrant from South Africa. As a young person, I lived on the west side of Vancouver, not far from the UBC gates, and there was no permanent library. Every Thursday afternoon I would head down to 10th Avenue where the mobile book library would come from downtown. It would circulate through the different parts of Vancouver and Thursday night was our night on 10th Avenue. I would spend at least an hour in the mobile library, a big van with rows of books. An important part of my becoming a Canadian was starting to read novels and non-fiction Canadian books. That is also why I have a lifetime love of learning and reading.

This legislation supports that kind of commitment to literacy and lifelong learning and will be supported by the Liberal Party as the right thing to do. It would create access to library materials for people who need them and extend these to reflect the realities of today.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

October 24th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the final vote approaches on Bill C-321, which amends the Canada Post Corporation Act and allows for a continued lower postage rate for library materials.

I am strongly in favour of the bill, and I thank the member for Brandon—Souris for his continued efforts, as this is indeed his third attempt. New Democrats unanimously supported the previous versions of the bill, including in committee, so we are pleased to rise today to renew our support for the bill at third reading.

This bill hits close to home, for two reasons. First, as my colleagues undoubtedly know, I am a teacher, which is why I will always vigorously support this House's efforts to encourage lifelong learning—through reading in this case—and to support culture and the dissemination of knowledge everywhere in Canada. I could tell a great many personal stories involving the students I had the chance to work with for 25 years, but seeing as time is limited, I will have to move on.

The resource materials provided by our libraries contribute to the learning and education of every Canadian.That is why we hope books can be distributed and shared at a low cost across Canada.

I would like to remind my honourable colleagues present that, since 1939, Canadian libraries have shared books at a reduced postal rate. It is vital that a federal institution such as Canada Post, which must serve all Canadians, provide such a service.

We cannot deny that we are pleased to support this bill, which is rather unique in that it places more emphasis on cultural and educational aspects than on economic considerations. It is quite rare for the government to do so, and I wanted to highlight this historic first.

I am also pleased to see that the bill retains the broader definition of library materials, which includes audiovisual and reading materials, of course.

Today, a library is much more than just a place to store books. Libraries are cultural hubs that provide a great variety of documents in very diverse formats. The nature of books is changing and will probably continue to do so in the decades to come. By passing this bill, we are maintaining access to library materials for all Canadians and we are maintaining fairness within the national network.

We also encourage small libraries to lend their collections and their archival documents to larger libraries in urban centres and vice versa. We would also point out that this exchange of documents allows Canadians who might be far away from one another to get to know each other better and recognize commonalities among their diverse fellow citizens.

The second thing that drew my attention in the bill was the key role played by the Canada Post Corporation. I must express a number of concerns I have about this.

Under the direction of the Conservative government, the Canada Post Corporation is closing a number of post offices and transferring certain services to private sector outlets. In the first six months of 2012, at least 16 post offices closed or received a notice of closure. In the next few months, Canada Post is expected to close another 40 or so post offices across the country. I just received an email informing me that the post office in Durham will be closing, and the list will probably grow over the next few weeks.

The NDP strongly opposes this quiet privatization, which has a negative impact on service to Canadians and businesses, and jeopardizes the Canadian economy. This modernization of Canada Post, if you can call it that, is troubling in the context of the bill currently before the House.

Because of the Conservatives, more and more isolated towns and communities are losing their Canada Post services. How will they receive the books that this bill refers to? How can this bill achieve its objectives if Canada Post services continue to dwindle?

It seems ironic, and even illogical, to see some Conservatives rise to support our libraries—something we agree with—and to support maintaining reduced postage rates, while others—or even the same ones—are in the process of reducing the number of post offices across the country.

Bill C-321 is an important bill. If we lost the reduced postage rates for library books, we would end up with a two-tier library system, based on the user's means and wealth. That is unacceptable in a country where access to knowledge is the key to prosperity and future economic development.

Bill C-321 also shows that it is not a mortal sin to require a business to guarantee something that could be considered an essential service in terms of culture and education.

That is why, while the Conservatives are busy making budget cuts—such as the ones to Library and Archives Canada—I will vote in favour of this bill.

However, this does not mean that Canadian libraries are in the clear. Far from it. We must stop privatizing the Canada Post Corporation and ensure that our heritage collections are accessible to as many Canadians as possible.

Canada Post currently offers Canadian libraries a reduced rate for library books, and there is no reason to believe that the corporation could not continue to offer this reduced rate in the future.

This provision would prevent Canada Post from unilaterally changing its reduced postage rate, which could cut interlibrary loan services in rural regions and remote areas of the country.

We must act now to ensure that our library system remains fair and accessible to all Canadians in all communities, especially official language minority communities.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-321, a bill that my colleague from Brandon—Souris has put forward on a number of occasions in this House of Commons. I am glad to see that it is moving toward completion for him. He has been an excellent proponent for this particular service and also a very good chair of the transportation committee, on which I served for three years. I am pleased to do this for him.

Since 1939, Canada Post has set a reduced postal rate for library materials. However, this is under a corporate policy. It is not under legislation.

Over 2,000 libraries regularly use the library book rate. The library book rate is not a government program and it is not currently financed by the Conservative government. Therefore, I think my colleague will find support on his side of the House for the bill because it will not cost the penurious government any money.

The ability of Canada's libraries to transfer materials across the country at a low rate allows Canadians in rural and remote locations to have access to the same materials as those who live in large urban centres. For me, growing up in the Northwest Territories when libraries were the dominant form of knowledge and information, this service was absolutely required.

Through this program, the Ulukhaktok Community Library on Victoria Island in the High Arctic has the same access to library materials as the Toronto Public Library, through the national libraries.

The rate contributes to the public policy goals of literacy, lifelong learning and vibrant rural and remote communities. Of course, the new information age has assisted greatly in communities across northern Canada. Improvements to other forms of delivery for those information services are still required and those still should be pushed forward.

Access to knowledge is an essential part of democracy. However, in this latest Conservative budget, we see that the Conservatives are opposed to knowledge. They are opposed to the dissemination of knowledge. They are opposed to the collection of knowledge on the part of the public. We see this over and over again in the budget implementation bill.

I want to speak specifically to libraries because the Conservatives are also gutting the National Library Service, the very repository of knowledge and information and the very people who not only collect the knowledge but also create ways to disseminate the knowledge across the country to those thousands of libraries that exist in Canada.

Library and Archives Canada is subject to $9.6 million in cuts over the next three years. Twenty per cent of the staff are being cut. This is a shameful situation in a country where the use of knowledge is so important to the development of our economy and to the development of our citizens in a good and equitable fashion across the whole country.

The inter-library loan program is being cut. The very program that the bill would help support across the country is being cut by the Conservative government and through the cuts to the national libraries.

We have a good-intentioned bill that is being superseded by these massive cuts that are taking place at our national libraries.

Also, within that, the national archival development program is being cut. Across the country, the development of archives, which can hold the information, hold the history of this country, is being cut. The country's history is rich right across the whole country. We need this kind of archival development program in my territory, especially because much of the history is oral and is not easily available. We need to have ways that we can preserve this over time.

We heard that libraries are being closed at many government departments. The libraries at Agriculture Canada, Environment Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Industry Canada, the National Capital Commission, National Defence, Public Works, the Public Service Commission and Transport Canada are gone. The formation is gone. The availability of information and the people who understand the information and can provide it to others are gone.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has already announced the closure of its library. That information is gone and those people who can provide that information to others right across the country are gone. Canadians expect to have access to a vast wealth of materials managed by Llibrary and Archives Canada. What is going on with this picture?

Canadian Library Association president Karen Adams said, in part:

Our national library and archives has a broad mandate to acquire, preserve and make available the documentary heritage of Canada. It is also responsible for the management of the archival records of government. Even before the [latest round of] cuts, Library and Archives Canada was challenged to fulfill its mandate;...

So what would we have? We have a situation where knowledge would be lost to Canadians; where the ability to deal with knowledge would be lost by Canadians; where the ability to understand what our country is all about, by Canadians through their public government, would disappear. Knowledge would be paid for. Knowledge would be hard to collect. Knowledge would be part of a system that, for Canadians, is so different from what we have expected over the years.

This is a difficult situation. It is one that I hope my colleague who has put this bill forward will understand and will plead with his government to do something different from what it is doing today with information services in this country. It is utterly vital to the future of our country to have information that is well documented, well understood and that is presented to people. Librarians have those responsibilities. What we see here would be the denigration of our library system right across this country. What is going on this country today? What is the purpose of denying Canadians access to knowledge?

Can the government ask those fundamental questions? Did it ask those fundamental questions or would it, in an idealistic orgy of cutting, just simply cut out this particular piece of our Canadian heritage and our Canadian future? What is going on?

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

April 23rd, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

moved that Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be before the House again to introduce a bill that would amend the Canada Post Corporation Act dealing with library materials.

As many members here know, this is the fourth attempt to get this legislation through the House. We have had great support from members across the way and I am looking forward to that same support today.

Historically, Canada Post has allowed libraries to move books between libraries to constituents at a reduced postal rate. That has been a handshake agreement for many years. In the last several years, Canada Post, obviously with pressure on it to increase revenues, has seen this as one of the areas where it might make a change and revert back to the full retail price, which, in my estimation, would devastate our small rural libraries.

The bill would solidify that reduced rate and protect libraries from any other rate increases without a debate in the House to verify how much and when it should take place.

I have said all along that I am not trying to handcuff Canada Post. I feel that it is important that it not only recognize what a great service this is to the communities that take advantage of it but also that many small communities could not afford to take the hit if they were to go to full retail prices overnight.

My bill also proposes some adjustments to the definition of library materials. In years gone by, a book was a book and libraries transferred books back and forth on a regular basis. My bill would expand the definition and over time this would allow Canada Post to reduce its costs in the sense that it will be shipping lighter materials, and obviously weight plays a big role in the cost. My bill would expand the definition from books to magazines to records to CDs to CD-ROMs to audio cassettes to video cassettes to DVDs and to other audiovisual material.

Having toured a lot of libraries across Canada, I have seen many of them moving into the electronic age. Their books are being transcribed electronically and, over time, I suspect that this will be the mode. Perhaps the long range view is that rate will disappear or at least stay the same for many years to come.

There are some people in Canada who do not have access to libraries either because of where they live, of a disability or for some other reason. Giving people the ability to access a libraries across Canada brings the world to them. This bill would benefit a lot of Canadians. I am told that about one million Canadians use this service directly on a regular basis and up to three million people use it on an occasional basis over a year. It is important that everyone in Canada has access to a library's resources. I see it that way and I see it as a way for libraries to share material.

I will give the House one instance that brought this to my attention. I have a small community library in my riding. It was brought to my attention during a campaign that this rate increase may happen. The annual cost to the library was about $1,800 and to see the rate change overnight would probably cost $15,000 to $18,000, which the library cannot afford. My bill would fix the rate.

I appreciate the good work that Canada Post does in providing this service. I encourage libraries to make people aware of the service and I encourage people to access a library. I travelled to Alberta last week and the library there told me that this was a good way to build traffic because people do need to go in.

I am not sure I started the expression but I have used it many times. Many years ago, if a community had an elevator it was a thriving community. However, we know what has happened in the past several years, sadly, but if we have a library, maybe it will make up the difference. That is the gist of what I am trying to do.

I thank my colleagues on all sides of the House. I have received tremendous support so far. The last time I introduced the bill, it made it to first reading in the Senate. However, due to changes in the electoral environment I need to start again, which I am prepared to do.

I thank all the people who have written letters and have had libraries write letters of encouragement. I look forward to debate on this. I appreciate this opportunity and I look forward to the bill going forward.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

April 23rd, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I stand in the House today to talk about Bill C-321. I salute the member for Brandon—Souris for his work on this bill and for the many years that he has tried to pass the bill through the House. I would like to underline that I will miss his chairmanship now that I am no longer on the same committee. I was vice-chair of the committee on which he is chair. I have always found him to be a very fair member and that his ideas are very practical and pragmatic. He takes a balanced approach to public administration. I know he has tried to pass this bill in the House many times. Therefore, it gives me pleasure to say that our party will be supporting this bill at second reading.

We will be supporting this bill at second reading because it is a practical proposition. We believe that rural communities are dependent on this postal rate. In order to give access to everyone across Canada and fill the gap between the rural and the urban, we need measures like this so that people in rural communities are not deprived of library materials. We believe this bill would allow Canadians to get the library materials they need and would allow Canada Post to do it at a reduced rate.

Usually from the government side we see a desire to privatize public services such as Canada Post. We often hear rhetoric about how the government should not get involved with these arm's-length corporations. We are glad that the government is not taking that approach with this bill. We believe that government does have a role to play and that it can make practical propositions to benefit all Canadians. A crown corporation does not necessarily need to be privatized in order to achieve those aims. Therefore, we are delighted with the fact that members on the government side are willing to make propositions that make sense and are pragmatic.

The one provision I would like to see explored at committee is the five year time limit for the first definition of library materials. In other words, the definition would be decided In five years' time and after that it would be ten years' time.

We never know the pace of technological change. Ten years ago we did not have resources such as YouTube. Then, from 1992 to 2002, technological change went crazy. Therefore, we have put a question mark on the period for the review of library materials just because the pace of technology change in the past 20 years has been fairly accelerated and we would not want libraries to lose out on this reduced rate just because the review period is too long.

Other than that, we believe the bill, as it is, with some minor discussions at committee, will probably pass quite quickly. We do not see any roadblocks. I am sure the member for Brandon—Souris is quite happy that this bill will finally see royal assent.

As a member of this place, I am sure it is a great pleasure to see a bill that comes from one's heart make it through all of the stages of legislation and finally gets passed. That is a great achievement and the member for Brandon—Souris can be proud of that achievement. We salute him.

Other than the things I have mentioned, which perhaps need to be discussed at committee, we plan on supporting the bill.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

April 23rd, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-321.

As indicated by my hon. colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges and all members on both sides of the House who have spoken on this issue, the NDP will gladly support this bill, which the House has been trying to pass for the past few session and which, for various reasons, has never passed third reading to receive royal assent.

I would like to take this opportunity here today to address a few issues related to this bill. These issues are not necessarily part of today's debate, but I think they are worth pointing out.

As hon. members probably know, the postal subsidy program has existed since the 19th century, but it was modified in 1939 specifically to include the shipment of library books. I mention library books because that is probably one area that will have to be revisited in committee, in order to increase the bill's scope.

We must not forget that in the 1990s, the program was cut by 50%. I am sure we all recall the cuts made by the Liberal government of the day, including the social program review, in particular. So, funding to this program was cut by 50% and the eligibility criteria had to be tightened considerably in order to promote Canadian owned and controlled subscriber-paid publications.

However, in March 1996, the legality of the postal subsidy was challenged before the WTO, which revived the whole issue of cultural exclusion in international trade relationships. Indeed, Canada and especially Quebec have always defended the notion that the cultural industry—books, periodicals, magazines, newspapers, movies, DVDs, music—and, to some extent, broadcasting express and reflect ideas, opinions, values and traditions, and as a result, contribute to the structure and identity of a community, a population or a nation.

Canada had to comply with the terms and conditions of the GATT agreements in 1998. The program's preferential postal rates were converted into direct subsidies through separate accounts at Canada Post for each registered title. The costs related to these rates therefore had to be absorbed by the crown corporation. That decision likely contributed to putting the nail in the coffin for this program, which officially stopped being a government program in 2005. However, thanks to pressure from libraries and industry organizations, Canada Post has granted an extension of the rates every year since 2005.

Since that time, the rates have never increased, which is a credit to Canada Post. However, that is about to change, since Canada Post announced for the latest year of the program—this year—a 5% increase to the library book rate, effective January 16, 2012.

For example, sending a package that weighs just over two pounds at the library book rate currently costs 92¢. That amount increased to 97¢ in January 2012. Without the library book rate, the same service of sending and returning a book would cost $18 through a post office. There are truly very significant savings when it comes to library books and they benefit the entire Canadian library network, whether we are talking about public libraries or university libraries.

In general, I believe that this shows the importance of being able to vote for a bill such as the one introduced by my colleague from Brandon—Souris. However, the library book rate program is scheduled to end on December 31, 2012, after being renewed for more than five years. For almost 30 years, and especially since the 2008 Canada Post strategic review, the corporation has been trying to reinvent itself, sometimes even abandoning the fundamental principle of universal and accessible postal services. Thus, it is a pleasant surprise that this program is still in place.

In defence of this crown corporation, I have to agree that it is not just up to Canada Post to cover the cost of this program to promote culture and knowledge. Hence the Canadian Library Association, as well as most stakeholders, recommended that the federal government ensure the continuation of the program. However, stakeholders do not agree on whether the program is part of the universal service obligation—the USO—that Canada Post has toward Canadians. The strategic review advisory panel's conclusion was as follows:

As a matter of principle, Canada Post should not be required to subsidize or otherwise pay for those public policy objectives that are not an explicit part of the USO. If a government department or agency proposes public policy activities like the ones above, the government should open the service to a competitive bidding process on a contract basis where such options exist.

To quote further from the advisory panel carrying out the strategic review of Canada Post:

While Canada Post as provider of postal services to all Canadians has been delivering publications since before Confederation, it does not have the mandate to promote Canadian culture by subsidizing postal rates for Canadian publications. That is the responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

One thing is clear: if Canada Post does not receive assistance, it will end this program, be it in 2013 or at some other time.

The crown corporation estimates that in 2007 alone, it lost $6 million because of this program. On the other hand, if the library book rate is raised or eliminated, libraries could pay postage fees that are up to 24 times higher, which would significantly curtail our access to information, knowledge and library services.

In Quebec alone, some 800 small public libraries use Canada Post's library book rate. In 2010 alone, over 115,000 interlibrary loans were made. A lot is at stake for them.

Public libraries are gateways to knowledge. That is why high-profile organizations like UNESCO promote them. In fact, UNESCO adopted the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto in 1995 in collaboration with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions to guide the creation and evolution of public libraries around the world.

The manifesto states that public libraries are a living force and a natural ally for education, culture and information. It also says that libraries are an essential agent for the fostering of civic-mindedness and peace because certain values “can only be attained through the ability of well-informed citizens to exercise their democratic rights and to play an active role in society. Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as on free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information.”

In that sense, government support is key, if not crucial, to encouraging and promoting these local institutions, which open doors and minds to knowledge and possibilities.

I would like to add that this bill and the difference it could make are of particular concern to me given that I represent a riding that is largely rural and that depends on this kind of program so that libraries that would normally have a hard time accessing many books and library materials would be able to access them without necessarily blowing their budget. In rural settings, it is often difficult to properly fund organizations that are key to the vitality of several municipalities, because of the lack of resources. Interlibrary loans are an essential tool in sharing these costs in a uniform manner so they can all benefit.

If the book subsidy program currently offered by Canada Post as part of this interlibrary loan program were eliminated, libraries in small municipalities would suffer first and foremost.

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport said about the issue of the availability of information. He was quite right to mention that the free market in information and the development of new technology have increased knowledge through various media such as the iPad, the Internet and so on. However, this is not all that different from what bookstores were offering in terms of library materials. One can easily go and buy a book at a library, just as one can buy access to documentation online for iPads and for other devices.

In that sense, this provides part of the equation. Public libraries represent opportunities for those who cannot afford to buy books and documents, so they can consult them for free, which democratizes information and knowledge. That is why it is important that we do not confuse the issues. The issue of access to information in the private sector is an important one and we fully support that, but we need to ensure thoroughly democratic access to information and its public availability.

As I said, we will be supporting this bill. We would like to propose some amendments in committee, including, for example, increasing the number of materials that can be exchanged—not only books, but also other materials that can be accessed by various devices.

I am pleased to announce the NDP's support for this bill.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

April 23rd, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today and address such an important issue. This bill has appeared before previous Parliaments but this is the first opportunity I have had to stand in this place and speak to this bill. I want to thank my colleague from Brandon—Souris for his dedication and commitment to ensuring this legislation goes forward. It is of critical importance and very vital to the lifeblood of, particularly, smaller and rural communities, much like the communities that make up my constituency of Wetaskiwin, which I am very honoured and privileged to represent.

Bill C-321 is an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act, dealing specifically with library materials, as we have been hearing from all the speakers today. Librarians in my riding have been talking to me about this piece of legislation ever since I was elected in 2006. First and foremost, the library book rate supports the intellectual needs of remote or small communities. This is paramount to ensuring that Canadians have timely access to the information they need. We all know the value of libraries in providing intellectual and reading materials to keep our communities current and our education systems working well. It is the principal underpinning of the concept that the collections of all libraries across our country be accessible to all Canadians, and as such support those education and lifelong learning needs as well as help maintain our global productivity and competitiveness.

I started my post-secondary education in 1987. I was at the University of Alberta taking a bachelor of science but of course I had to take some arts courses. There were a number of libraries on the campus at the university. The main science library was Cameron Library. Occasionally, I would have to get some materials that would be referenced out of one of the smaller libraries on campus. While I could look up the information, I had to go from one library to another to get the materials. If I happened to be in some other library off campus, I would not have access to look up those materials. As I was on the university campus, the information from the main database was shared among all those libraries on that campus. However, if people were not hooked into that system, they did not know that those materials and resources were even there.

I left Red Deer College in 2006 when I was first elected to this House. I was a tenured faculty member there, teaching computer systems technology. We could go to the library at Red Deer College and access any vast number of resources from across the country, through various interlibrary loans and online catalogues. The advancement over that short time, with the implementation of various information technology advances, is incredible. Now we have Canadians from coast to coast to coast able to go to their small municipal library if they are fortunate to have one in their community and look up reference materials all over Canada. That is why this bill is so important. It is important to rural Canada, to western Canada and to the communities I represent.

Being able to access the catalogue of materials in major libraries and have these books sent to communities at a reduced rate allows those small communities to put forward a larger range of reading materials and opportunities without bearing the expensive shipping costs of sending books across the country, of purchasing large amounts of materials to keep in collection and of having the square footage to keep large collections. Coming from rural Alberta, I understand the limitation of not always having access to some of the larger city centres. With a library book rate, library members can easily participate in interlibrary loans, allowing urban and rural library membership alike to have access to the vast library collections across our great country.

Canada Post has been offering this highly discounted postage rate for library books for over 70 years. The rate is significantly discounted, up to 95% of regular parcel rates available to Canadians at Canada Post counters. As staff of public institutions, librarians seek to minimize their costs while maintaining a high level of service to Canadians, a paramount principle. Saving on this postage rate would allow librarians to increase their investment in educational programs and to expand their offerings to all Canadians. This was originally funded directly by the Government of Canada. In 1997, however, a ruling by the World Trade Organization required the cost of the program to be incurred by Canada Post Corporation.

The library book rate is not a government program and is not currently financially supported by the federal government. Members of the library community all across Canada, as well as in my constituency, 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, the Government of Canada. Yet the rate contributes to the public policy goals of literacy, lifelong learning, inclusion and vibrant rural and remote communities.

The library book rate remains very economical and will continue to be substantially lower than the most discounted commercial parcel rates. Consider this. A package weighing about 1.3 kilograms mailed at the library book rates today costs about 97¢ to cover both the sending and returning of a book. This reflects an increase of about 5¢ in January 2012. However, if we did not have the library book rate, the same service of sending and returning the book would cost $18 if mailed at a post office.

As I have gone across my riding, I have spoken at many libraries and to volunteers who have expressed their concern about what may happen to their libraries if this legislation does not pass. This is a legitimate concern, because this is a musing from Canada Post that comes about from time to time. Of course, as soon as that happens, virtually every library across the country contacts its member of Parliament and brings this issue forward with deep concern.

Many people believe an unfair library service, as those who can afford to pay to expand their libraries will, and those who cannot afford the shipping costs would be left in the dark. This is an issue of fairness. It is making sure that all Canadians have access to those materials and that Canadians in small communities are not prohibited from using their libraries to expand their knowledge in the information economy of the 21st century. Not only that, but the level of service libraries provide would be reduced if the program were forced into a cost-recovery basis, with patrons and distance learners having to bear the cost.

As a matter of fact, my colleague from Brandon—Souris was out in my constituency to talk to people at libraries. We stopped at the Blackfalds Public Library, and I congratulate Yvonne Ketcheson and her staff. Ron Sheppard was there from Parkland Regional Library. Later on in the day we went up to the Pigeon Lake Library at Ma-Me-O Beach and we met with Opal and her staff as well as some folks from the board. We had municipal councillors come out, who are on the various library boards. They talked about the impact it would have on their communities if they lost the library book rate. Someone would have to pick up the difference, which could be so great that it would be hard to imagine the continuation of some of these small libraries in some of these small communities.

Every so often Canada Post muses over raising this rate to make it on par. However, one of the things my colleague and I heard was that if Canada Post were to raise the library postage rate to make it on par, then instead of paying to mail a DVD out and receive it back via mail, a library would be further ahead to send the person the money for the DVD. A person could go out in their local community, buy the DVD or the reference material and keep it, if the postal rate were conducted at cost. We can see the dramatic expense it would be if, every time a person went to the library, the library actually bought the person the material rather than lending the material. This is the impact that an on-par cost for postage would have for libraries. It would simply become unaffordable.

Thankfully, Bill C-321 proposes that before Canada Post could increase the library book rate it must receive approval from the Government of Canada. This would ensure that the opinions of the constituents of every member of Parliament in the House can be expressed. If that were to come about, members can be assured that every MP in this House would know right away that the library book rate was proposed to change, because the libraries in their communities would be the first to let them know.

Just as technology improves and as innovation goes on, our laws need to be updated to keep up with the pace. I am very pleased that this bill not only proposes to ensure Parliament is aware of any proposed changes but it also broadens the definition of what library resource material is. Right now it includes only books. However, as we move into the digital age, it is not unreasonable for someone who is visually impaired to order a library book in Braille or in large print, an audio book or a book formatted for a computer screen or reader. These are the kinds of things the bill proposes.

It makes complete sense for Parliament to pass this legislation. I would again like to thank my colleague from Brandon—Souris for bringing this forward. I urge all members of the House to speak up and make sure they do the right thing and vote in favour of Bill C-321.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

April 23rd, 2012 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). It is an important bill.

I know this bill may not be the flavour of the month, so to speak, in terms of being a bill that people across this country can sink their teeth into, and is controversial, and so forth. That is a good indicator, though, of a Parliament that is functioning well, that we can actually move legislation forward that we do agree on.

New Democrats do agree with this and congratulate the member for bringing this forward yet again. It has been through this House a number of times. Unfortunately elections have interrupted its actual final delivery for Canadians.

It is important. We do live in a technology-based age. At the same time it is really good to see the Conservatives actually supporting good solid public institutions today, be they the library or the Canada Post Corporation, which is a public institution. They were formed because the private sector cannot do everything. To assume that the private sector should or could do everything is a fallacy not only in our country but across the globe.

We founded the Canada Post Corporation to provide for those services to be done efficiently, so Canadians could communicate from coast to coast to coast. We continue to do so because of the principle that we need to communicate amongst ourselves and bind ourselves as a nation in a way that is cost effective. It is not just about making money. If it were just about making money, then we would charge as much as we could for a stamp, for example.

Canada Post Corporation does do very well. It is an important employer for our country. However, the principle element behind it is to make sure we continue to be able to communicate as a nation. Whether or not we live in Windsor, Ontario, in my riding and want to send a letter to a relative who might have had to move out to British Columbia or somewhere else, like Alberta, we can actually do that.

I know the digital age has taken up a lot of the different types of communication, whether they be email, Skype, electronic books or video games that people can play online at the same time. However, we still have the old-fashioned written letters, as well as distribution of hard materials that takes place.

As a former job developer for persons with disabilities, I can say it is very expensive to keep some of the library content available. For example, large-print books, talking DVDs or CDs and audio books are very expensive. This bill actually defines those materials as library content so they can be shared with other libraries, be they rural or urban. That is important because, again, as a former job developer for persons with disabilities, I know it is really important for those large-print books to be shared. Often they are more expensive, and different titles are not available across the country. This is an opportunity to be able to share them with other people.

The intent of the bill is to enhance public institutions, enshrining the fact that libraries are a critical component for Canadian learning and should be enhanced. I know a lot of municipalities are under a lot of strain right now, including my own, with regard to keeping these institutions going. If they disappear or we withdraw services, the institutions will be weakened and Canadians will be weakened.

When we look at and think about the bill, on the surface we might think it is just a convenience to be able to have the latest book available, but it is actually the learning experiences necessary for training, education, employment, health and safety and a series of different things that are key to the materials that are out there.

I think it is important to really home in on a couple of things. Canadians do support this. It is interesting that it was unanimously passed in the last Parliament. Every member of Parliament recognized that these institutions are critically important to the foundation of communities.

In my own community of Windsor West, we are going through a process right now with our library where there is the possibility of the re-districting of it. It is generating a lot of interest and lot of different types of commentary. It is all based on trying to enhance it, not actually withdraw services.

The municipal politicians are under difficult financial constraints with regard to their budgetary process right now, but at the same time there is a loud voice out there saying that the library is very important to it.

What is interesting is that we have moved beyond libraries just being a place to go to pick up books. I remember when I used to go as a kid. It was essentially a place to go to get books and bring them home. Now, they are tapped in with the Internet and with computer resources and they support learning services. Our main library has a wood carving museum as well. Libraries have public meetings and functions that take place. They have become social places where people gather. There is a café and all those different things.

The bill would provide that repertoire of enhanced services to other places. I remember in university, as well, going down to the book store and the library. We had a choice to make. If we could find that book in that library or someone else's library, we could order it and it would only cost about $1 or $2 as opposed to paying $20 to $40 for a resource we only needed for a week or two. This would provide, again, an opportunity for people to do that at low cost.

The service part of it is really important too, because this would also protect jobs at those institutions. I am glad the Conservatives are protecting the jobs in the public institutions in this particular case, because it would provide more need for staffing and more need for services, but the value we would get out of that is way more than the actual cost to Canadians. In fact, there is no real way to estimate what this would cost, but it would be modest in the overall budgetary picture for Canada. What it would do is re-enhance some of the services necessary to keep these institutions going.

Some countries have moved to privatize parts of their postal services, and that has been to the detriment of the public purse. It sounds good on the surface to privatize some of these services, because we say we will get that revenue stream at the immediate point, but at the same time we weaken the overall organization, so then it appears to be a failure because it is doing the hard work and heavy lifting that the private sector will not do.

Therefore, this would provide more work and activity to enhance that service and also to provide some stability, which is necessary.

We on this side of the House have been fighting significantly to maintain postal services over the last number of years. In Sandwich Town, for example, the management of the Old Sandwich Town post office actually tried to build a business case to move a lot of the services to the University of Windsor, which would actually damage the service to the Sandwich Town area and cost the businesses, the community, seniors and even some of the students a number of services, which they might eventually employ.

I was thankful the union came forward with leaked documents that it provided me. These showed that when it looked at the business case of the closing of the Sandwich Town facility, it saw that the regional manager's salary was included in the business plan, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, when the manager was not even at the Sandwich Town post office but at another location. However, his salary was included to make it appear much more costly than it was. Thankfully, we were able to reverse the trend, and that post office is still open today. It has been open for a couple of hundred years in that area, and we are very proud to have that now as another stable point.

The member has brought the bill back to the House of Commons several times. We have seen a few of these bills where that has taken place. I am hopeful the Senate will dispose of this bill rather quickly, that it will move rather expediently and we can be done with this. We have a majority government and more stability now with more opportunity to finish legislation.

As I conclude, unfortunately, there have been several bills that have gone to the unelected chamber that have not been passed. I hope that will not happen to this bill and it will get through rather quickly.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Routine Proceedings

October 4th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill, as I have in previous times in the House.

This bill moves to guarantee a postal rate for libraries for interchange and to provide books to Canadians at a reduced postal rate. It also moves to increase the access, including the definition of library material from books, magazines, records, CDs, CD-ROMs, audiovisual cassettes, DVDs and other audiovisual materials.

I would advise members of the House that this bill had been passed unanimously by all members of Parliament in the last session and had gone to the Senate just prior to the call of the election.

I look forward to moving this bill forward again.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)