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Newfoundland & Labrador government suspends decision to close 54 libraries

Members of the St. John’s chapter carry a “Say No To Austerity” banner at a protest on May 7.

The Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter has been actively opposing the Dwight Ball government’s austerity budget, which included closing 54 of the 95 libraries in the province.

CBC now reports, “Newfoundland and Labrador’s education minister says he has requested a suspension of the decision to restructure the public library system [pending a review]. …[Dale Kirby] acknowledged that the widespread opposition to the decision was a factor. ‘Of all the interactions I’ve had with people since April 14 [when the budget was announced], this is probably the issue that comes up most of the time’, he said. …Kirby said the review will be carried out by the firm EY, which is already engaged in the so-called government renewal initiative. He expects it will be complete ‘early winter’, and departmental staff are ‘discussing the cost’ of the review with EY.”

Provincial NDP leader Earle McCurdy says, “They clearly are admitting that they goofed. They’re saying we’re now going to do an assessment of the value of the libraries. Well, isn’t that something you do before you make an announcement you’re going to close something?”

And Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Newfoundland and Labrador representative Dawn Learning says, “[This] announcement is a positive step forward. Now that the province has committed to this review, we want to stress the importance of inviting members of the community to participate in the process, as well as library patrons and library workers. …Libraries are essential to our communities. They are community hubs used as education centres, meeting places for local groups and more. We hope all the members of these communities will be represented in the review.”

Despite this reprieve, CBC has previously reported, “[The province’s finance minister] said further actions [cuts] will be announced in a supplemental budget this fall.”

The Council of Canadians is a member of the new ‘We Are NL’ anti-austerity campaign, which includes CUPE, Unifor, the St. John’s Status of Women Council, and many others. The campaign was launched by Common Front NL, a broad based coalition of labour, social justice and community groups representing over 100,000 Newfoundlander’s and Labradorians.

We will also be highlighting that austerity measures are a political choice not an economic necessity at our annual conference in St. John’s this coming October 14-16.

For more information on our upcoming “Groundswell 2016: Toward a Healthy Economy for People and the Planet” conference, please click here.