WIN! Saskatchewan chapters celebrate government backing down on cuts to libraries

Brent Patterson
4 years ago

The Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapter at a protest to keep library funding, April 7.

Council of Canadians chapters in Saskatchewan are celebrating the government of Premier Brad Wall backing down and cancelling its budget plan to cut almost $5 million in funding for public libraries.

CBC reports, "The provincial government is turning back the page on its budget day cuts to Saskatchewan's libraries by restoring $4.8 million in funding. That's the same as last year's funding levels. ...Premier Brad Wall had asked [Education Minister Don] Morgan to review the cuts last week after public protest as well as new poll results that showed the budget was hurting the Saskatchewan Party's popularity."

On March 25, just days after the budget was tabled, the Regina chapter joined a protest of 150 people to rally against the funding cut to libraries.

On April 7, the Prince Albert and Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapters participated in the 'Drop Everything and Read Saskatchewan' day of action. The action in Prince Albert took place outside Joe Hargrave's constituency office, while the Quill Plains chapter took part in the read-in at the library in the small town of Wadena.

Overall, close to 6,000 library supporters took part in this day of action either in front of the office of their MLA or at their local library.

And on April 8, the Regina participated in a 'Rally to Stop Bill 40 and Stop the Cuts!'. Bill 40 would allow the government to sell off up to 49 per cent of provincial Crown corporations. That rally, organized by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, took place in front of Finance Minister Kevin Doherty’s constituency office.

Saskatoon-based Council of Canadians Board member Tracey Mitchell comments, "This is welcome news and I offer my sincere congrats to those that have worked hard for this! However, the government has made a lot of other mistakes in this budget that they haven't yet owned up to. Please keep speaking up."

She adds, "If libraries are the issue you were most passionate about, please recognize that many folks that are more passionate about other issues supported your fight and don't leave others behind by walking away now. We need solidarity. Please advocate for a total repeal of the budget and show the Sask Party that this as a step in the right direction but not enough to appease us!"

The Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has noted "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. ...There are the mean-spirited cuts to funeral services for social assistant recipients, that will save the government a mere pittance. ...The government is also reducing the already meagre allowance of social assistance recipients. ...[And the government plans] to increase the provincial sales tax [including removing the PST exemption from children's clothing]."

The provincial government also intends to axe the STC. That's the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, a provincial Crown corporation created in 1946 by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government of Tommy Douglas. Its mandate is to provide bus services carrying people and freight between major centres and to as much of the rural population as possible. Its freight service is now scheduled to end of May 19 and its passenger service is to stop on May 31.

An article in the Kamsack Times notes, "Public transport ensures that all members of society are able to travel, not just those with driving licences and access to a vehicle, but groups such as the young, the old, the people with modest means, those with medical conditions and disabilities and even people banned from driving for whatever reason." As such, the STC plays a key role in enabling people to get to public libraries.