Reply to Michael Whittaker’s Open Letter to Steve Clark MPP

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Dear Mr. Whittaker,

Thank you for writing to share with me your concerns regarding the inter-library loan service and what it means to you. I’m pleased to have this opportunity to respond and to clarify how the program was cancelled.

Open Letter to Steve Clark MPP from Michael Whittaker

I would begin by pointing out that direct funding to municipalities for libraries did not change this year. Our government is providing $25 million to support libraries in our 2019/20 budget, something I’m very proud of because I value tremendously the essential services they provide in the communities I represent.

There was an adjustment to the Southern Ontario Library Services (SOLS) and Ontario Library Service –North (OLS-N) transfer payment from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The expectation of the Ministry was that SOLS and OLS-N would work with them to find efficiencies in service delivery, while ensuring programs were maintained.

The decision to cut the inter-library loan service entirely was made by these two organizations – it wasn’t directed by the government. I’m very disappointed that they made the decision and I know many of my constituents who relied on the loan service to provide them with books share in that disappointment.

It’s important for me to stress that the Ministry remains committed to doing what it intended from the start: work with SOLS and OLS-N to find some efficiencies in service delivery and maintain programs on which people rely.

For instance, the services could have explored the option of working with the Ministry to establish an inter-library loan program using the mail. This modernization would have maintained the service and done so at less than 25% of the cost of the current program, which relies on a dozen vans travelling across the province at a cost of $1.3 million every year.

I understand the Hon. Michael Tibollo, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, met last week with SOLS, the Ontario Library Association and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries. They were to discuss how the government can work together with these organizations to help Ontario’s library system explore innovative ways to continue delivering their outstanding programs.

I remain hopeful a solution can be found to maintain the inter-library loan service and, in the meantime, I will continue to take forward to Minister Tibollo any concerns or suggestions I’m hearing from constituents about the inter-library loan program and other vital library services.

Ensuring every government organization is finding ways to operate more efficiently is an essential part of the reasonable and responsible approach we’ve taken in our 2019/20 budget to get Ontario back to balance budget in five years. That approach is what allowed us to ensure we had the flexibility to increase spending in Education by $700 million and in Health by $1.3 billion in this year’s budget – two areas I’m sure you would agree are a priority for Ontarians.

Thank you again for taking the time to write and please don’t hesitate to contact me in the future on any provincial matter.

Sincerely,
Steve Clark,
MPP
Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes

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