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House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was libraries.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, they are in danger very simply because it is unacceptable that we are under a government with such lenient legislation. We are calling for a Quebec-Canada agreement on energy resources to ensure that Quebec's environmental assessment process is applied to this kind of drilling project.

If we rely on the federal legislation, exploratory drilling projects will be subject to basic screenings only, rather than thorough studies. Quebec's legislation, on the other hand, stipulates that these kinds of projects must be submitted to the BAPE, a real public inquiry organization whereby communities on the Îles de la Madeleine would be allowed to express their opinions and scientists could also weigh in.

We need a Quebec-Canada agreement as soon as possible but unfortunately, once again, the federal government refuses to recognize that the gulf belongs to Quebec. We simply do not accept the government's attitude towards Quebec, because what people want are stricter environmental regulations. If we compare Quebec's regulations to Canada's, it is clear that Quebec's regulations are much stricter than those passed and amended by any federal government.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for giving such a great speech on the importance of protecting the environment.

I wonder if he could tell us more about the budget implementation bill before us, which has not yet passed third reading. Hidden in that bill is a part that deals with environmental assessments. Of course the bill was drafted before the incident in the Gulf of Mexico. In light of what we have seen so far, this is due to some complicity within the government, a failure to obey the law, or perhaps some political influences.

The budget implementation bill would allow the environment minister to decide whether environmental assessments should be conducted or not, and I wonder if this is not somewhat dangerous. Could the member comment on this?

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely right. With the changes in Bill C-9, Canada is trying to achieve some harmony with the United States. The decision was made that an energy board would assess drilling projects of this kind. However, the U.S. experience has shown that this was a mistake.

Transferring the environmental assessment process for oil projects from the environmental field to the energy field might open the door to favouritism. The thing to do, therefore, is to backtrack and ensure that oil projects are not assessed by the National Energy Board, but instead by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which will be able to carry out studies and assessments in cooperation with the provinces.

As we suggested even before disaster struck on April 20, the proposed changes to transfer that responsibility to the National Energy Board are a serious mistake. That board should be off limits to oil companies, especially where applications for drilling permits are concerned.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois agree that Canada should review its legislation with a view to bringing it more in line with that of the United States, which provides that drilling permits are granted subject to an environmental study? Also, would the public be welcome to take part in such a study?

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes. That is exactly what I was saying earlier. We had asked for this in April 2005, when the Liberal Party amended the Environmental Assessment Act, so that a preliminary screening rather than a thorough assessment was required for oil projects. The result was that these projects were no longer subject to public consultation because the department believed that the environmental impact of exploratory drilling was, in general, minor, local, of short duration and reversible.

In light of the U.S. disaster, it is time to return to more rigorous environmental assessments, complete with public consultations, in order to prevent preferential treatment. It is not true that the environmental impact of oil drilling is minor, local, of short duration and reversible. There is nothing about the U.S. disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that is minor, local, of short duration and reversible. Quite the opposite. For that reason, we should be conducting complete assessments of these types of projects.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join the debate today on the motion put forward by my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona. I will repeat it for the benefit of the House and the people watching who have perhaps just tuned in. The motion states:

That this House notes the horror with which Canadians observe the ecological disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico and their call for action to prevent such an event in Canada, and therefore calls on the government immediately to conduct a thorough review and revision of all relevant federal laws, regulations and policies regarding the development of unconventional sources of oil and gas, including oil sands, deepwater oil and gas recovery, and shale gas, through a transparent process and the broadest possible consultation with all interested stakeholders to ensure Canada has the strongest environmental and safety rules in the world, and to report to the House for appropriate action.

When we consider the wording of the motion itself calling for a thorough review and for revision of the laws to make them the strongest environmental and safety rules in the world, you would think that this would be an absolute no-brainer. In light of what we have seen in the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems pretty clear that a review is called for.

A spokesperson for the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, a federal-provincial body that looks after the offshore oil and gas regime in Newfoundland and Labrador, said within a matter of days after the events in the Gulf of Mexico that it would have to review its regulations in light of that incident. It is pretty clear that the people of Canada want to see a review.

I will quote a Newfoundland environmentalist of long standing, a gentleman by the name of Stan Tobin. He has been active in environmental matters over the last 20 or 30 years, particularly in Placentia Bay, where there is a lot of tanker traffic, an oil refinery, a transshipment port, and a lot of concern about the environmental consequences of oil and gas. Mr. Tobin said that it is time that the federal government did a complete review.

He is talking about the tanker traffic here. He said:

It's been 20 years since the last one was done. A lot has changed. If government and the oil industry believe that we are in a position to adequately respond to something like what happened down in the [Gulf of Mexico], they are the only ones who believe it. No way are we prepared.

That is a sentiment expressed by a lot of people across the country, both lay people and people who know what they are talking about, having studied the issue for many years, and even by those who have a lot of respect for the technological expertise of people in the oil and gas industry.

There was, in fact, an admission by Chevron, which is doing the Orphan Basin project, the deepwater well that was started just a couple of weeks ago, when it put forth its proposal for drilling five years ago. It candidly acknowledged that it would not be able to clean up an oil spill of any significance if one were to occur. It did not have the capability to do it because of the weather and wave conditions in that particular area, because of the fact that the oil would disperse very quickly, and because the containment measures were likely to be inadequate. However, it said that the chance of it happening was so rare that it did not think the risk was too great.

It candidly admitted that on the technological side, it did not have the capability of doing an oil-spill cleanup. I think that is sobering news for a lot of people to come to realize.

After hearing the government talk and after listening carefully to the Minister of Natural Resources today, one would think that it would not be difficult for the government to actually support this motion and engage in this review. The Minister of Natural Resources said this morning that he and his department are constantly reviewing their rules and regulations and that they want to be assured that they are the best in the world. How is that different from the motion before the House today? It is not enough to have assurances from the government. There has to be an open and transparent process.

If the minister truly believes that we are in the forefront of the world in terms of environmental protection and environmental safety and operations in this kind of oil and gas activity, then what does he have to fear from a transparent process that would allow stakeholders or others, other than the government officials, to examine the issues and pronounce on them?

This is intended to provide a level of confidence Canadians would require for the type of oil and gas development contemplated here, those that are of higher risk to the environment.

We know that the oil sands have an extremely severe negative environmental footprint as they operate today. We know that there are dangers, as we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico, from deepwater drilling. There are dangers from offshore drilling in general.

I think the sensitivity to that is so great in British Columbia, for example, that a moratorium has been in place for some 30 years. It is likely to and should continue, because that is what the people of British Columbia want. They do not want to take the risk of a potential oil spill occurring.

We have had pretty good success on the east coast, I have to say. The oil and gas developments in the Hibernia, White Rose, and Terra Nova projects have had some oil spills. An estimate was given the other day by the CNLOPB chair to the parliamentary committee for natural resources. I think the number was approximately one barrel of oil spilled for every million barrels produced over the years. I suppose that is a good ratio. Maybe it is and maybe it is not. Someone else might have a different opinion on that.

We have seen some spills. On the other hand, we have seen what I would call inadequate environmental monitoring. We have a self-reporting system in the east coast oil and gas industry. The industry is the one that monitors the environmental effects and reports on them to the CNLOPB, which then makes them public.

There has been constant criticism in my province from the environmental scientists, researchers, and academics who work in this area. They say that self-reporting is not the best form of reporting at all. One speaker at a recent event said that if someone asks me how I am doing or how good I am, I will probably give a pretty favourable report about myself. If somebody else is asked how I am doing, it might be a little bit more objective.

This is something that has been recommended in the past. In fact, the environmental assessment for the Terra Nova project recommended strongly that there be independent environmental monitoring of the project. This did not turn out to be one of the conditions of the development of the Terra Nova production platform.

Since then, we have seen some incidents with significant spills, particularly of processed water, that went undetected and carried on for a long period of time. This is something that we find abhorrent. It obviously shows that the rules we have in Canada are not the best they can be and certainly are not the best in the world. We have also seen incidents like this that require attention.

I want to talk about the deepwater drilling being done by Chevron. It needs to be put into perspective a little bit. It is not the first well done. It is the deepest. Chevron did drill a deepwater well in the Orphan Basin in 2007. It is not intended to be a production well. In fact, they are not even going to do a test flow. They are just drilling the well for the sake of obtaining core samples. They will cement it in at the end of the process. This is purely an exploration well, so there is some difference there in terms of what the ultimate risk might be.

It has taken three months to drill the well. The CNLOPB has moved on this very quickly and has said that they want additional oversight requirements there. Interestingly enough, at a certain point, when they actually get into the high-carbon zone, which is considered the pressure zone, they will be taking what the CNLOPB calls a pause. We hope at that time that there will be an opportunity for an assessment of the dangers of continuing based on what happened in the Gulf.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Unfortunately, there will not be time for questions and comments.

It being 1:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and the recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

I believe that the hon. member for Crowfoot has a suggestion for the House.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the House would be open to the suggestion that we see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Shall I see the clock as 1:30 p.m.?

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to get a handle on the amount of the current subsidy that Canada Post provides to the libraries. The member indicated that we are talking about 2,000 libraries across the country affecting about a million people. What is the total amount of money the libraries are currently paying to Canada Post and what would be the suggested increase? How many millions of dollars would the libraries be paying under the new regime if the bill was not successful?

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, that has been a challenge as I have worked through this entire book rate issue. Determining the cost has been very, very challenging. Even today, that figure is not identified specifically by Canada Post.

I am suggesting that with the movement from books to the new technology of DVDs and CD-ROMS, those costs will automatically go down as more and more people use it. That is the reason I introduced that part of the bill in this presentation, because I think the mood of the public is moving away from books. The Kindle has been mentioned. I want to make sure that when libraries make that transition into the 21st century with the technology in which they are now engaging that we do not lose the ability to transfer the information to rural and northern communities in particular.

I apologize that I do not have the exact amount of money, but it has never been made available to me. I have heard several figures mentioned. I have challenged all those figures and I have never had an actual figure presented to me.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to congratulate the Conservative member for Brandon—Souris for this initiative. Naturally, I hope he will take into consideration the recommendations or the advice that I may give him. I know he is the chair of a committee, because I belong to that committee. He is very knowledgeable about procedure and I would suggest that he move that the motion be unanimously adopted by all parties at all stages. As he mentioned in his presentation, he introduced his bill a number of years ago and I believe that it is time for Parliament to adopt it quickly so that it can become law as soon as possible.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments and suggestions. We share work on the transportation committee and I believe we have an excellent relationship.

I am prepared to follow the process of the House and the rules of the House. I know that there are two parts to the presenting of a bill. I am very aware of the time it takes to do that. I know there are some concerns from others and there may be some suggested changes to the bill that might even improve it. I am certainly prepared to listen to what all MPs have to say and move forward on that advice.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for his tenacity. He has now introduced this bill three times in four and a half years. I would suggest that he is as stubborn as this bill.

I note that the 2008 strategic review done by Canada Post mentioned that the library book rate was not a part of the universal service obligation. This created a lot of concerns in my rural constituency as my rural libraries rely heavily on this rate.

I wonder if the member could answer briefly about his reasoning for making this part of the bill a responsibility of parliamentarians and how important he feels that is in his bill.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is true that there is some discussion about what Canada Post is responsible for and what it is not. The reason I wrote it into my bill that any discussion or any attempt to increase that rate, rather than putting it in the hands of Canada Post, because it is such a valuable service to all Canadians, is that I felt it was appropriate that the discussion should come back to this House and be the decision of the members of Parliament as opposed to the crown corporation.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will speak today to the library book rate, the specific proposal to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to reduce the rate of postage for library materials.

I congratulate my colleague from Brandon—Souris for bringing this motion forward and, as another colleague mentioned, for his tenacity in continuing to pursue this. I am also pleased to congratulate my colleague on this side of the House, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, our opposition critic who has also recommended that we in the House support these amendments and therefore support my colleague from Brandon--Souris in his efforts.

I have a personal story that has led me to support this. When I was very young, my family moved to a very small town in rural Ontario. It had a small library but it had been left unattended for quite a few years and had few books and very few materials. My mother, seeing the need, volunteered as the town librarian to provide an opportunity for some adults, although in our case it was mostly children in this small town. The biggest challenge she had was finding books.

As an aside, I congratulate my colleague for adding a variety of other materials to this list because now, in 2010, CDs, tapes and a variety of other materials complete the picture of all of the materials available.

However, when I was a little girl many years ago before CDs and videos, my mother had a great deal of difficulty finding books for the community. There is no question that small town and rural libraries will find that books and all these other materials will be significantly less available and they will be much more reluctant to obtain them if the cost is the way it currently stands. On the positive side, there is no question that so many of these small town and rural libraries will bring in far more materials, books, CDs and videos for so many people in their communities if they are capable of doing so at a reduced cost.

In a country where we all agree that education is important and that opening up horizons, particularly for our children, is critical to the success and the future of this country, particularly in these areas where they would not otherwise have those opportunities, that doing so is tremendously important.

One of our primary jobs as parliamentarians is to ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely, effectively and transparently. There are concerns about what this might mean in terms of reduced revenue to Canada Post. I am, therefore, pleased to support this on the basis that it will go to committee and that my colleagues at committee will be in a position to review what this may mean in terms of reduced revenue to Canada Post, but it is in that forum that we will have the opportunity to analyze those details and deal with them appropriately at that time.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Brandon—Souris on his ongoing support for this bill. I know that he has been behind this issue for a long time.

I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville, who is our opposition critic. She is the one who recommended that members on this side of the House support the member for Brandon—Souris.

I am very familiar with the situation facing rural libraries. When I was little, we lived in a very small town, and my mother became the volunteer librarian. The hardest part of her job was finding books and other materials for the library. She worked with adults as well as lots of kids.

I know that it was a real challenge for her, but she really appreciated getting books and other materials for people in the community. That was really important.

I know that reduced fees for inter-library loans are really important, not only for rural libraries and small towns across Canada, but also for the people who will have a chance to read and look at these books. That is the most important thing.

I want to reiterate that those of us on this side of the House are proud to support the member for Brandon—Souris on this bill. We hope that the committee will discuss it because we have questions about costs and outcomes in terms of reducing Canada Post's revenue. This bill is a very good idea. We will support this bill, and we hope that it will pass.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP 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.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand here in this House to talk about the library book rate bill that my colleague from Brandon—Souris has put forward.

I was actually just on the phone with my son, Easton. He hopes that the member has a bit more luck getting this through than he had in committee the other day. My son also has some concerns about the NDP member's approach during private members' business, bringing up these topics of neanderthals in western Canada.

I really take umbrage with that because, to be honest, this government has always stood on the side of rural Canadians. This bill is something that is very important to rural Canada, to western Canada, and to my communities. To hear a member of the former NDP government in Manitoba complain about bank branches and libraries being shut down in Manitoba, it was that member who did not do anything about it for the last who knows how many years in the provincial government and who is just as ineffective today in this Parliament.

This really is a non-partisan piece of legislation. This really is something that we should all be able to gather around and talk about, and be able to pass this at the utmost speed because this is something that is critically important to rural Canada.

I want to congratulate the member for Brandon—Souris once again for four and a half years of dedication to this legislation. He has introduced the bill three times and at the end of the day, it is as determined, as stubborn and as practical as he is.

I also want to mention and thank the member for Brandon—Souris for all the numerous phone calls and petitions that I have received from my constituents and librarians around my constituency. I have come to know more of my librarians a lot better after they have called me and explained to me the benefits of the library book rate to them and how critical it is that they have some consistency in this form of payment.

It is like when we talk about municipal government. When I was in municipal government, it was great when politicians came in and cut a ribbon with us, but it really was tough to balance the books year after year when we were not sure how many grants we were going to get the following year.

What this bill would do is help stabilize for our libraries the rate going forward and it would, I believe, bring the responsibility back to Parliament for changing that rate. I think we as elected officials should be the ones who have a say in this because it does affect all of our local communities so very much.

This bill is critically important to communities in my riding, such as, Mallaig, Barrhead, Westlock, Neerlandia, Elk Point, and St. Paul, that rely on interlibrary loans and rely on that rate staying at a discount and staying competitive.

The library is something that I utilized first as a young child in rural Alberta. There is not a bookstore around every corner. We go to the local library. I have to confess I was a Hardy Boys fan myself. I know the Speaker was a big fan of Nancy Drew. This library book rate helps us access not only these kinds of book but books by Tolstoy and other books that help expand the minds of rural Canadians and help educate the minds of rural Canadians.

It is critically important now, not only after we have been through the system but for my children, such as Ayden, who is now starting to go to the library and is reading ferociously, and who does not want to be limited in her local library as to how many books she can get. She should be able to access books from around the world. Thankfully, due to things like the library book rate and interlibrary loans, we have that ability.

I first learned about the importance of this when I was a municipal politician. I was elected at the municipal level and in one of the first committees that I was assigned to, I was to proud to represent our local library as the municipal leader there. I was then off to the regional library system to represent our local libraries there. We find the difficulties that our libraries have in staying competitive and keeping the bottom line at a reasonable rate, while still maintaining an excellent service to our constituents and to their clients, who are the youth of our generation.

I must admit I was somewhat of a fiscal conservative. I know some people call those neanderthals, but I believed that we needed to hold the bottom line. It was there that I realized the library book rate was essential to keep our libraries effective. It was essential to keep them growing and expanding for the customers. They moved into DVDs and CDs, long before this bill was ever put forward.

The local libraries tell me how important it is and what a cost savings it will be to them to have DVDs and CDs included. Now big books of Braille and with block letters that are harder to read can be transcribed onto CDs and DVDs. There will be a much reduced cost to the government and to the taxpayers to move these books around.

I had an interesting discussion this morning with the Minister of Agriculture. We talked about how important this bill was. He talked about the Internet. As a forward-thinking rural Canadian, he is always looking after rural Canadians. He brought up how important it was that libraries had access to the Internet. In my communities, oftentimes this is one of the only places rural Canadians, young boys or girls, can go and access free Internet services outside of their own homes.

This shows that libraries are moving forward, but we have to keep the libraries as an essential piece of our communities. In rural Canada the library is not just a place to go to pick up books or to access the Internet. It is also the place where moms and tots gather and where small groups bring their kids and meet new people who have moved into the community. I know when my family first moved to St. Paul, the library was the place where my wife took our children to meet other kids their age, to learn to read and to do different exercises.

Without things like the interlibrary loans and the library book rate, our libraries would be less effective and have fewer hours. This is very important legislation for us.

Once again, I thank the member for Brandon—Souris for putting forward this bill and for having the ingenuity and the determination to stick with it. It is important that we all gather around and do the right thing on this. As I said in the beginning of my speech, it is important that this is a non-partisan bill. This really does benefit rural Canadians and rural youth. I wish him the best of luck and thank him.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this place and to speak to this bill that has been brought forward by my colleague from Brandon—Souris. Let me also commend him as the colleague from Westlock—St. Paul has done for his perseverance in keeping this before the House. I know he has been at this for four and a half years. It has been introduced three times and he has done a very good job each time.

I was just going through my BlackBerry and I noted that on Saturday, April 24, I was in Chestermere Lake attending the Chestermere Public Library spring gala. I recall waking up early in the morning that day, heading in a snow storm to an early meeting in Hanna and then a board meeting and then heading to Three Hills for a graduation ceremony. I travelled close to Calgary into Chestermere for the gala, where the theme was the 1920s. In the midst of this spring snow storm, the hall was full. It was held at the golf course. People came in the costumes of the 1920s. Music from the 1920s was being played and people were there to support their local library. They understood that if the library were going to succeed, if the library were going to meet the needs of their community, they had a role to play in that. The community came out in force that night to enjoy the evening, first of all, but also to raise some significant dollars through a live auction and also a silent auction.

Make no mistake about it, throughout my rural constituency, these types of meetings are held fairly frequently. People were there because they have a remarkable library in Chestermere. I can recall going into the Hanna and the Bashaw libraries and getting tours through a number of libraries in my riding. This issue of the library book rate, this issue of funding and being able to shuffle or move books around from library to library, was always brought forward to me by librarians and parents.

In my hometown of Killam, the post office sits kitty-corner to the public school and the community library. I am amazed at the number of people who frequent that library. In the summertime, it is not uncommon to see young mothers pulling a wagon or pushing a stroller with one or two children, heading down to the local library. Young—

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Only young parents? What about old mothers?

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Well, old mothers, too. Mr. Speaker, the member from Toronto asks, what about old mothers? Well, there were old mothers as well, but it is usually younger mothers pulling infants and children in the wagons.

So it is a facility that is used and not abused.

The member for Brandon—Souris also talked about those who are homebound and forced to stay in their homes or communities and how they access the libraries.

We need to thank the member for Brandon—Souris for bringing this bill forward to be debated, and to go to committee and to be looked at. It is going to be a positive thing when we get to know a little more about the savings from having this rate. We know the history of it. I think that when we look back to 1939, when we were a young country trying to develop local communities, we recognized the need then to work together to help each other succeed by accessing more resources for our local libraries, and that is where this came up.

I have already talked about what this means to local libraries. I think all members would agree with me in wishing that those who are watching today could see the amount of correspondence that we receive on this issue. Libraries are very good at mobilizing their users, and I applaud them for that. It helps us to represent them when we know the significance of legislation such as the bill we are debating today.

I want to go over some of the points that have been raised already. There are over 2,000 libraries throughout this country that use the book rate. One million Canadians benefit from this service annually. It is an important part of the service that the libraries offer to the public. It is important for the moms and other people who frequent the libraries. Let me also say that academically, this is also a very important bill because this is going to ensure that rural libraries that may be part of a local school can access resources for the school. Academically this gives a hand up to people in rural ridings.

My riding, as I mentioned earlier, is a rural riding with many small communities, villages, hamlets, and towns. They are already feeling the pinch. I can recall when utility rates took a little bit of a spike in Alberta. I received a letter from one library that said the library was run by volunteers, that it had a limited budget and its utility bills had gone up by $600. I recall receiving that letter three or four years ago which asked, “How can we keep our library open? What are the things that we can do to keep the library open?”

It is very important that we look at bills like this one and recognize that we are not guaranteed universality all the time, or access to some of these resources, but for our rural ridings, it is an integral part of the community.

I thank the member for Brandon—Souris for persevering, for sticking to it and bringing the bill forward. I wish him all the success as the bill goes to committee, we hope, where we will have the opportunity to study it some more.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Crowfoot will still have two minutes remaining to make remarks on this bill.

However, the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:15 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:15 p.m.)