House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

The House resumed from December 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

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

11:10 a.m.

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

11:20 a.m.

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

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues in the House for the generous support they have offered to me on the bill.

The impetus behind the bill was to ensure that libraries knew the cost of moving books and other library materials back and forth. Although they had an agreement with Canada Post, there were times when it was suggested, or it may have been presumed, that the rates would rise dramatically. As was explained in the last speech, that would impact libraries, particularly rural libraries, in a very significant way.

The bill intends to protect the rate and expand it to include today's technology. I was pleased with the review of the bill in committee. There were some changes made that I thought were very welcome. As parliamentarians, this is an issue that impacts all of us and I think it is important that we all play a role in it.

I have received generous support across Canada. Hundreds, if not thousands, of names have come in on petitions in support. They were not from one specific region of Canada, but from all across Canada, which tells me that libraries are important.

As someone who grew up in a small rural community in Manitoba, I understand the value of having access to the larger centres. Not everybody has the ability to move things in and out of these larger centres, but they can do so with the mail.

If people are watching today, I would encourage them to contact their library and find out about the book rate. They do not have to travel great distances. They can have library books and materials delivered right to their doorstep if they are unable to access their local library.

It will move into the other place very soon. I am hopeful that people studying it will see the positives and the benefits to all Canadians, and that we will bring it back to the House. With certain situations prevailing, I would like to see this happen as soon as possible, so I will encourage my friends in the other place to do the same.

With that, I thank hon. members for the opportunity. I too want to thank the people who work in the library system. They do a tremendous job and a great service to Canadians. This is just one way of showing a little support for them. It also enables Canadians to have better access to reading. What more could I say?

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 9, 2011, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of Sitting
Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House will now suspend sitting until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:33 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from March 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley had seven minutes remaining in the comments and questions period. The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway on questions and comments.