The Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to restore the blue pages to telephone directories across the country.
In April, the Canadian Press reported, “The [Harper] government says it can’t justify spending $3.1 million a year to publish the phone numbers of 115 departments and agencies in the blue pages. Yellow Pages, which publishes the telephone directories, says the last phone books with full federal listings were sent out in March.” A government memo says, “With the rise of the Internet, such mass print publication of government contact information has become inefficient and unnecessary.” So now only the federal government’s main toll-free number (1-800-O-Canada) will be published in the blue pages.
But St. John’s-based Council of Canadians Board member Ken Kavanagh says that’s wrong.
In a CBC Radio Central Morning Show interview on this issue this spring, Kavanagh said, “It’s a case of not providing accessibility to many Canadians who don’t use the Internet. And for the small amount of money that this accessibility – the blue pages – created, it’s just not worth cutting it. …I think it will have an impact on people who are poor, on seniors, on Aboriginal communities and on people who live in rural Newfoundland who don’t have in many cases access to the Internet. …I think there are lots of people who are going to lose out on this.”
In that interview Kavanagh expressed hope that this policy would change under a new government.
Statistics Canada has reported, “Almost all households in the top income quartile (98%), or those with household incomes of $94,000 or more, had home Internet access, compared with 58% of households in the lowest income quartile, or those with household incomes of $30,000 or less. Of those households that did not have home Internet access in 2012, 61% reported they had no need for or interest in it. About 20% of households reported having no access because of the cost of the service or equipment.” In 2009, Statistics Canada noted that 65.3 per cent of people in Newfoundland and Labrador at access to the Internet at home.
The Liberal platform this election promised, “Accessing government services online should be easier. We will make the process easier and faster through individualized, secure accounts for Canadians who want to access their benefits and review key documents. We will also create a single online point-of-contact for all government services, and work with the provinces and territories on ways to combine online access. As we expand online services, we will also expand in-person service, such as reopening the nine veterans’ service centres closed by Stephen Harper.”
Those are laudable goals, but will the new Trudeau government also make government accessible to those who may not have Internet access?
To hear the 7-minute CBC Radio interview with Kavanagh, please click here.