Doug Ford makes callous cuts affecting Northern Libraries

Dear Friends:

Doug Ford’s first budget has hit Ontario families pretty hard, but it seems that Northern Ontarians are taking several extra whacks which will make life even harder for us here in Algoma-Manitoulin. Ford’s first budget attacked areas such as education, health care, community and social services and other public services that Northern families greatly depend on. Now it seems that Doug Ford and his Conservatives are cutting funding for the Ontario Library Service-North by 50 per cent.

Doug Ford’s cut to our public libraries will force them to scurry to find alternative funding sources, force them to make deep cuts to programs and services and force them to do with less. He’ll make it harder for Northerners to get the books they’re looking for, and for libraries to provide programming and resources Northerners deserve. By doing this, Doug Ford is also putting Northern library jobs at risk.

Times have changed. Libraries are not just rows of book shelves. They are hubs where we can access technology, the internet and other essential services. Anyone wanting to search for a job or even apply for a position needs access to the internet. And if they don’t have a job, chances are they won’t be able to afford internet in their home. People use library technology to access e-learning to improve their employment and education opportunities and access social benefits online. Library staff provide instruction and training free of charge for individuals who are not familiar with equipment.

It may interest you to know that loneliness is one of the most serious public health problems facing our society. In fact last year the United Kingdom appointed an elected MP as the Minister of Loneliness. Seniors and singles meet at these community hubs for social activities like book clubs and even movie nights in communities too small to have a theatre. All of this is available for free in our local libraries.

He’s making it harder for libraries to help students who need a place to study, learn and access resources — including technology — they don’t have at home. Don’t forget that soon the Government of Ontario is going to make earning four high school courses through e-learning at home mandatory. But what about those students who live in areas that don’t have internet service or homes where computers and internet are not affordable? Where will they turn to gain access to such opportunities?

Northerners really count on their libraries. We do not always have multiple options on where and how we can access the services we need because of distance and geographical realities we face in the North. Families, children, seniors and vulnerable people can all find programs and support at their local library that improve their quality of life. With this cut, skills training for library staff who work with youth, children, seniors and the most vulnerable in our communities will be slashed.

By eliminating half the funding for Ontario Library Service-North, Doug Ford is cutting a vital service for our libraries to work together as one unit providing excellent service to Northern Ontarians.

Doug Ford doesn’t care about how his cuts affect our communities. He is obsessed with downtown Toronto schema. Even as a city councilor, Ford vowed to close the smallest library in his own ward “in a heartbeat.” Even back then Ford brazenly declared, “Why do we need another little library in the middle of nowhere that no one uses?” It doesn’t seem that his views on libraries or understanding of the North have changed much since then.

Doug Ford may have no use for little libraries, but we treasure them in Northern and rural Ontario, and New Democrats will fight to keep them.

Michael Mantha, MPP