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Regina chapter rallies in defence of public libraries

The Council of Canadians Regina chapter rallied today against the provincial government cutting funding for public libraries by nearly $5 million.

CUPE activist Tria Donaldson writes, “Today we rallied for Saskatchewan libraries. Over 150 people came out on very short notice because libraries are more than brick and mortar. They are the hearts of our community. We are going to keep the pressure up on our politicians, and keep building awareness in our communities.”

The provincial government of Premier Brad Wall delivered its budget on March 22.

That budget announced the Regina Public Library would lose $600,000 in funding through the elimination of its provincial grant. The provincial budget also eliminated $651,200 in funding for the Saskatoon Public Library. The seven regional libraries – in Chinook, Lakeland, Palliser, Parkland, Southeast, Wapiti and Wheatland – are to be cut by $3.5 million.

CBC reports, “The latest chapter in budget cuts is bad news for Saskatchewan libraries. The province has eliminated funding for the public libraries in both Regina and Saskatoon — a move that will shave $1.3 million from spending. The seven regional library systems are also seeing a cut in provincial support — $3.5 million less, resulting in operating funding of $2.5 million.”

The Regina Leader Post adds, “For most library districts in the province, provincial funding has been cut between 50 and 60 per cent. The funding decrease will now result in staff cuts and an impact on services to many rural libraries.”

And the Saskatoon Star Phoenix notes, “Helen McCutcheon, director of the Parkland Regional Library that oversees branches in eastern Saskatchewan, said the budget cuts will mean job losses, decreases in services and fewer materials purchased for the regional library’s 55 branches.”

Rhonda Heisler, CUPE library sector coordinator, says, “The Saskatchewan Government’s cuts to libraries will have a devastating impact on the many people who use library services and the many hard working and dedicated public servants who work in libraries.”

The Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides this important context: “Despite the provincial government’s insistence that its budget cuts would ‘strike a balance’ among those effected, Wednesday’s budget sure seemed to favour some over others. While the government’s budget cuts and tax increases landed disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor, it simultaneously lavished multiple tax breaks on corporations. [Among the corporate tax cuts], the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) rate will be reduced from 13 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2019, giving Saskatchewan the lowest corporate tax rate in the country.”