30 May 2012

James Moore offers hope for archives, washes hands on Interlibrary loan

On Tuesday 29 May 2012 Minister James Moore appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage at noon on Heritage Canada Main Estimates.

In his opening statement Moore emphasized the favourable treatment given arts and cultural programs in the budget. He made no mention of heritage programs.

In response to an NDP question on Library and Archives Canada he stated:
No doubt things will be difficult at LAC, but on the other hand too I've no doubt they'll be able to deliver the goods and fulfill their mandate. What I did want to emphasize is the fact that they will be able to offer many more services online to Canadians and that is true. It's true that LAC will be offering more and more of their services online and they will have to change their approach. This didn't begin in 2012 with our budget by the way, this has already been ongoing for a few years. This is what we're seeing in the United States, in the Provinces, across Europe with organizations that are similar to LAC and that are undertaking such policies as well. Without any doubt LAC would love to see bigger budgets just as CBC and everyone else would, but we had to make some difficult decisions.
There was a hint of some good news in response to a question from Liberal heritage critic Scott Simms.
Mr Simms  ... I want to dive into LAC because there's a fundamental gap between what it is people do in telling our story as Canadians as opposed to what we think is a place to cut for reasons of inefficiencies. When it comes to digitization its not just piling a bunch of photographs on someone to put them on a repository; there's a story there to tell. The NADP was an essential part of telling a story in the smallest of communities. I have 200 communities in my riding and some of them took advantage of this (the NADP). They're in a situation now where the expertise is not really there. Just by digitizing something we've missed the narrative. Archiving is something more than we give it credit for. Would you agree?
Moore: I think it can be seen by some obtusely as just a bureaucratic function, but I think your right. I come from a family of teachers. This is about protecting. Digitizing can become a blanket platitude for seeming like you're a la mode. It seems like a catch-phrase. Your right. it's about attracting and championing Canadian culture and history through archives, so it's an important tool of learning.
Simms: NADP was a vital tool of that. It seems like we've taken something extremely vital to the core of what you believe in. So you have to question do you believe in what it is they're doing?
Moore: Well we do, but you know look there are going to be other initiatives that Library and Archives is going to be announcing and we are going to be providing ...
Simms:  Any hints ...
Moore: No, I'll leave that for LAC  ... soon we'll have more to say on the subject.
Simms: On the Inter-library Loans issue. How did you come to that decision?
Moore:  That was LAC's decision. The way the process works this is not I the Minister going to LAC and saying here's how you're going to absorb a five or ten percent reduction, and here's how we're going to force it upon you. We ask them to come up with the five or ten percent they think is least effectively spent related to their core mandate and responsibilities. So they come to us and say if our budget is reduced here's what we think is the least effective five percent of the money we're spending.
It's sad to witness a Minister who shows a profound understanding of his portfolio, the Deputy Minister spoke not a word at the hearing, abandoning his ministerial accountability for the cuts to the Inter-library Loan program.

My transcript is approximate. You can listen to the audio of the hearing at http://www.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeMeetings.aspx?Mode=1&ControlCallback=pvuWebcast&Parl=41&Ses=1&Organization=CHPC&MeetingNumber=33&Language=E&NoJavaScript=true

There should be an official transcript eventually.

There were no English language media at the hearing, two French media outlets, no video cameras.


Anonymous said...

According to the minutes of the meeting, the deputy head of LAC wasn't at the meeting

Moonraker said...

John, thanks for your in-depth coverage.