Commentary: Ford’s cut to library service budget smacks of anti-intellectualism

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This letter was sent to Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Tibollo, and a copy was sent to Huntsville Doppler for publication.

Dear Minister,

I am writing you today concerning your government’s decision to cut funding to the Southern Ontario Library Service to the point that inter-library loans will no longer be possible for the libraries that compose this grouping.

This small program, within the province’s vast budget, punched way above its weight, especially in small-town Ontario. An ‘ILLO’, as it was sometimes called, could supply a local book club, could enhance the healthy concept of ‘Lifetime Learning’, could provide foreign language texts for new Canadians, or provide DVDs for those who could not afford big cable packages.

I am a non-fiction writer, and have produced three books on Canadian history (involving two Canada Council grants), published by Mosaic Press (Oakville).  I am working on another history manuscript and, as I live in Huntsville, I rely on inter-library loans to help me do my research.

What your government is telling me is that if book-related research is important to my life, I should move to a large city and give up on rural Ontario.

Premier Ford’s world is centred on the GTA. His Escalade moves between Mississauga and Queen’s Park. I’m sure he has little concern for what this decision has done to rural Ontario, and to our libraries. He will factor in:

  1. This budget cut has a slight nuance of anti-intellectualism, which will appeal ‘Ford Nation’.
  2. He has shown he can ‘get tough’ on over-spending. (Huntsville’s Monday Night Book Club will just have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and buy all the books they want to read.)
  3. By the time the next provincial election rolls around, people will have forgotten about this. And, the Tory Party will be handing out pork barrel goodies by then.

It is up to you, Mr. Minister, to convince Mr. Ford that he is making a big mistake. There are a lot of unhappy people in rural Ontario. Motivated people. The kind of people who vote. They will remember this contribution to ignorance and ill-spent time in our small towns. They will think of it every time they pass the local library.

Remember, Mike Harris did a lot of cutting, but he was from Northern Ontario and never touched this item.

I can guarantee you of one plank that the Liberals, NDP and Greens will all have in their platforms when the writ is next dropped in Ontario: Restore inter-library loans throughout the province.

Yours truly,
S.R. Gage

S.R. “Sandy” Gage first got to know this area in 1956, when he stepped off the train, inside Algonquin Park, to go to summer camp. His book, A Few Rustic Huts, on the ranger cabins of Algonquin, was published in 1985. He and his wife have lived permanently around Huntsville since 2000.

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12 Comments

  1. Michael Petropulos on

    I didn’t see any Liberals out there complaining when Kathleen Wynne was spending our money into oblivion. The triple digit pay increases, alone, that she gave to her inner circle last year just before she knew the Big Party was over probably would have been enough to balance the library budget; not to mention the dozens of other scandals that cost tax payers billions without anything to show for it. Maybe some of those hard working librarians who are currently making over $100,000/year might want to consider donating some of that money back to the library if the concern is that there is now not enough of it to keep the doors open? There is no more gold in the vaults, folks. The cupboards are empty and a big chunk of what we earn is now required just to pay the interest on this new debt – thank your Libs for that, not Doug Ford! At least he has the intellect and courage to do the responsible thing by prioritizing expenditures rather than pandering for the vote of every special interest group out there with their hands held out. Champagne socialists who are now whining about these cuts ought to trade your wine glass in for a baby soother. The reality is that the average person is having more difficulty now than ever just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Do you honestly think that they give a damn about the library when they can probably get everything that it has on line?

    • David Fowler on

      No, you can’t get everything that a library has on-line. There are still thousands of people who don’t have access to a computer. You can’t get classics that haven’t been digitized. You can’t make your computer room a community centre with meeting rooms for everyone to use. You can’t hold children’s reading times to introduce them to books. Most important of all – you can’t get real books! Not everyone wants to be turned into an automaton with his face glued to an electronic screen.

      • KM Wehrstein on

        As a researcher myself I have to agree with David here. The Internet is incredibly broad in the knowledge it contains, and getting deeper all the time, but still cannot match the full body of knowledge contained in books. I am lucky as my research employer gives me a book budget. Everyone else doesn’t have that!
        .
        Anti-intellectualism is integral to American right-wing ideology. (See the graph here: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/5/10/1856759/-Republicans-are-surprisingly-self-aware-they-re-happy-being-dumb.) It leads to voters who lack critical thinking skills and therefore vote against the interests of average people, i.e. *their own* interests.
        .
        We need to *not* go that way.

        • Oh, for heaven’s sake, Karen. You are yet again spouting your usual anti-conservative claptrap and tying it to U.S. politics? The fact is that Michael Petropulos is right. I agree with him that, if the Liberals had not gone hog-wild for fourteen years, Ontario might have money for libraries and everything else that needs to be done. While I agree that libraries–especially in rural areas–should be fully funded, the cuts need to come from somewhere. Since relatively few people use inter-library loan services (and they are expensive to provide) it was natural that the cuts would come from there first. It makes sense and it has nothing to do with “anti-intellectualism”. Not everything has to do with politics! Unfortunately, few people read books anymore. From what I see, the vast majority of the under-40s are so glued to electronic screens that they wouldn’t know what to do with a book (maybe use it to prop up their I-Phone?).

          Please don’t try to politicize what is essentially a pragmatic decision. The Liberals have their ideology of tax-and-spend-and-then-borrow-when-it-is-not-politically-acceptable-to-raise-taxes-any-further. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place. If you want to criticize anyone–criticize those who have mortgaged the Province to the hilt. The debt servicing payments have to get paid whether the children have books to read or not. It’s too bad but blame your irresponsible Liberal friends–not the grown-ups who must now make the hard decisions.

  2. Timothy Ferrier on

    Our family has lived most of its life in Rural Ontario, and we have used the Library all the time. We have used Interlibrary Loans to get everything from DVD’s to research that we needed for projects we had on the go. That being said, we agree with Ford’s cuts (and we are in no way – anti-intellectual). This Libray Service could have done many things to make itself sustainable. They could have chosen to charge a nominal fee for its services, a dollar or two for each item used. Or they could have chosen to find the funds through fundraising. They could have chosen to try to make this service as local as possible. My wife was a Library Tech, and she always tried to find the closest library that had the resources, until she found out this service was centralized out of Toronto – that the drivers were almost always from the GTA. Any combination of these things would have gone a long way to making their service sustainable. Instead, those that run this service and the Libraries themselves have chosen to whine and complain and make this a political issue. In a day and age when all of us are being told to spend more than we have – I applaud someone who is willing to say, “I’m sorry we can’t,” that is good leadership. Remember Ford didn’t cut all of their money, he just cut it back. They choose to cut their service in this way. Timothy Ferrier and family.

  3. Interesting to hear the whining and complaining from people in Ontario who are damning Premier Ford and his Conservative government for making cuts in the areas of special interest to them, and who did absolutely nothing in this socialist utopia, when Liberal criminals, Wynne, and McGuinty along with their motley crew of Liberals thugs irresponsibly drove up public debt, spent recklessly, created runaway deficits, and significantly damaged Ontario’s economy. Because of these Liberals’ ineptness, criminality really, Ontario gained the distinction of becoming one of the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrowers in the world. When thankfully Wynne lost the election to the Conservatives, she left a $325 Billion public debt even after the Auditor General and Financial Accountability Office noted her accounting tricks to make it all look better, with taxpayers paying $9.6 Billion annually in interest on the debt built by Wynne. Premier Ford and his Conservative team have the challenge of dealing with this. Many of the people of Ontario, instead of supporting him in resurrecting the fiscal state of our province, increasing Ontario’s GDP and job growth, creating an economy beneficial to private citizens and business alike, roadblock him at every turn.

    • Karen Wehrstein on

      Doug Ford is not an intellectual and does not understand how important intellectual endeavours are. But the USA is very very close, and yes our politicians pay attention to it (when altering laws they will look at US precedents as standard operating procedure) as do our news media (I once had to find out what stories the major American TV networks were playing each night as part of my job as an intern at a major Canadian network.)
      .
      You apparently don’t know how strong the anti-intellectual currents are in the USA. I suspect you have never travelled there. Go fly to a town in the southern United States, or an airport in a major city there, and try to buy a book. Look up on Google the books that religious Americans — and there are a *lot* of them — who want to keep their kids out of school so they don’t learn “satanic” ideas like evolution, use to homeschool their kids. (“Electricity is a mystery” is one recent example I’ve read.) Do you realize that when asked on a poll recently whether kids should be allowed to learn Arabic numerals, 56% — a MAJORITY — of Americans said no? (See this tweet: https://twitter.com/jdcivicscience/status/1127285936977522688.)
      .
      It’s not that Americans are stupid. It’s that a lot of them are taught wrong things, both as children and adults. There’s a long tradition of it. Check out a book entitled _Lies My Teacher Told Me_, by James W. Loewen. The nation has an entire cable network down there which calls itself news but deliberately “reports” falsehoods for political reasons: see here: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/mar/18/fox-news-donald-trump-barack-obama-election . (You do know, Erin, that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya?) Part of that tradition is despising research, knowledge and truth. I actually had an American friend, an intelligent person — she’s a grantwriter — say to me, “You think your opinion is more valid than mine just because it’s informed?” This is apparently a matter of debate down there, even though I’m reasonably sure they don’t go to their car mechanics for brain surgery.
      .
      Educate yourself about reality before accusing others of claptrap.

    • Karen Wehrstein on

      Lots of ad hominems, as usual. If Ontarians are not turned off by this attitude, they should be.

  4. Helen Detlor on

    Anti- intellectualism ????
    So refreshing to know there are Ontario citizens that realize Ontario is so in debt.

    Perhaps we could have some creative, constructive thinking of our own. Use existing transport such as our Canadian Post, Via, UPS, Campar, FedEx.
    This could be a tax break for them, as well as reducing our Carbon Footprint!!

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