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.