NDP raises concerns about limited public consultation following stealth libraries review

Responding to the Sask. Party government’s Report on Saskatchewan Public Libraries Engagement, NDP Education Critic Carla Beck said that public consultation “appears to be an afterthought” in the libraries review process, “when it should be front and centre.” The government released the report late yesterday afternoon, setting a two-week limit on comment on the report, with no public meetings scheduled and no opportunity to engage broader questions about the role or future of libraries in Saskatchewan.

Beck noted that Saskatchewan libraries were only saved from deep cuts in the 2017 budget by widespread public outcry, with thousands of people rallying in support. The government walked back those cuts, announcing it would conduct a review of the library system to determine next steps.

“People were furious when the Sask. Party government moved to slash library funding in 2017,” Beck said. “People care about libraries — 14,000 people signed a petition to save them, and thousands participated in read-in protests around the province. This short survey is what passes for public consultation?”

Beck pointed out that the online survey is limited to inviting comment on yesterday’s report, not on the evolving role of libraries more generally.

Recent NDP Freedom of Information requests about the report were effectively stonewalled, with one turning up eleven almost-completely redacted pages. And advocates have previously raised concerns about the way in which the public has been shut out from the libraries review process.