Local libraries have recently learned that the federal funding they receive for community access programs has been eliminated in the newest federal budget.
Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond estimates the total loss will be $22,000 for the libraries in the district.
“I think the federal government has cut the funding because they are under the misguided belief that rural B.C. has high-speed Internet. That is isn’t the case,” Richmond says, adding at least the provincial government came through with its library grants for this year.
The pulling of the CAP funding comes after the CRD has purchased new computers for libraries in the region under its 2011 budget.
When the board receives the information about the CAP funding being pulled at its next board meeting on May 11, however, it will have to find money to cover the program in its 2012 budget.
“We’ve done our budget already and believe that free access to the Internet is paramount for our rural constituents and part of our library operations. So the board is not likely to pull the program.”
Richmond doubts there will be anything but disappointment expressed by the board when they debate the issue.
The good news is that currently staff tells him they can find the funding, although it will require some reallocating.
“We have no intention of discontinuing the program, but we’re very disappointed that the cut has come,” Richmond says.
New Democrat candidate Charlie Wyse is calling on MPs Dick Harris and Cathy McLeod to restore the cancelled computer access funds.
“Locally, these cuts affect 15 libraries in the Cariboo region. These libraries — in larger centres like Quesnel, Williams Lake, and 100 Mile House and in rural communities from Bridge Lake to Anahim Lake to Nazko — have lost the funds that provided computers, software, and internet access for use by the public.”
The total cut for BC libraries is $515,000, he says.
In addition, the BC Library Association has urged the federal government to re-examine this decision to ensure that all Canadians continue to have critical access to current technology in their home communities.
Wyse says he is also calling on the provincial government to resolve this issue.
“We need the provincial government to intercede in this matter on behalf of all British Columbians. In the 21st century, computer access should be available to everyone through their local library to access jobs, health information, and government services.”
Harris couldn’t be reached for comment.