Skyrocketing hydro costs leave Ontario public libraries in crisis

This morning during question period, NDP Economic Development, Employment, Research and Innovation Critic Catherine Fife outlined the dire position libraries across Ontario are facing as hydro rates continue to rise. 

“We know that our public libraries provide extraordinary value to their communities,” said Fife. “Whether it’s employment skills upgrading or the integration of new Ontarians, or whether it’s providing free space for seniors’ groups or the early development of literacy skills, our public libraries create community across this province.” 

Fife, the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, raised the example of libraries in her riding. 

“In Waterloo, our public library hydro bills have been rising, with no end in sight. In fact, I’ve heard first-hand over the last three years that the increase in their hydro bills have been staggering. In 2014-15, Waterloo Public Library’s electricity costs rose by 18 per cent; the following year, by 26 per cent,” said Fife. “Public libraries’ operating budgets are being squeezed and public service is being sacrificed.”

Fife criticized the government for failing to release details of their promised hydro cost reduction plan, and the continued under-funding of public Libraries. 

“Our public library budgets are being compromised because of your out-of-control hydro rates. Your government’s public library operating grants fund less than 5% of library operating budgets,” said Fife. “Rising electricity bills and chronic underfunding have created a crisis for libraries. Out of desperation, Toronto public libraries are now opening without staff. Imagine: libraries without librarians. Why is your government forcing libraries to choose between paying their bills or staffing their libraries?”