Celebrating the Libraries’ Victory and Building Toward the Next
How sweet is victory?
Yesterday’s restoration of funding to libraries by the Saskatchewan Party was a major accomplishment for grassroots democracy in Saskatchewan. The people who organized the Save Saskatchewan Libraries campaign did a brilliant job of quickly to responding to the cuts, building a Facebook group with over 7,000 members, collecting signatures on petitions, mobilizing people in 85 communities across the province to participate in the “Drop Everything and Read!” and ultimately forcing the government to return 100% of the funds cut from the library system. Victories like this don’t come along every day and it is reason to celebrate!
The campaign to save the libraries has been the largest and most well-organized component in the multi-issue resistance to the provincial government’s immensely unpopular budget. The reversal of the funding cut shows that when people organize in large enough numbers to voice their discontent, politicians are forced to listen. However, the battle is far from over and we have just been shown a hint of what is possible.
We are seeing the largest mobilization of grassroots democracy in Saskatchewan in a generation. The last time these numbers of people took to the streets was during the final years of the Grant Devine government. The Sask Party, stinging from a drop in the polls of almost 20%, recognizes this and is probably scared witless by the prospect of the movement continuing to grow. The reversal of the cuts to libraries is an attempt to stem the bleeding of this drop in popular opinion and to take the wind out of the sails of this powerful movement.
This is precisely why it is time to redouble our efforts. The cuts are part of an austerity agenda far bigger than one issue. It is an agenda that seeks to use economic hardship as an excuse to push through policies that would never be accepted by the public under normal circumstances, especially as taxes are cut for corporations. It is an attempt to permanently change the lives of the majority of people in the province for the worse. We must not allow this to happen.
We must now focus our attention on the dozens of other areas* cut and changed in negative ways:
- The shut-down/privatization of STC Bus Company
- $22 Million in cuts to elementary and secondary schools,
- $30 Million in cuts to universities and post-secondary institutions
- The shut-down of NORTEP (Northern Teacher Education Program)/NORPAC (Northern Professional Access College).
- The direct elimination of 574 jobs including cleaners, STC workers, and public employees in Ministries of Environment, Justice, and Highways. This is in addition to wage rollbacks, mandatory days off and pension and benefit reductions for public sector workers.
- The cancellation of funding for chaplains providing spiritual care including bereavement care in hospitals and care homes.
- The sell-off of crown lands and give-aways to corporations like CP while Indigenous land claims continue to drag on unresolved.
- The cancellation funeral services for people on social assistance.
- The elimination of the Hearing Aid Program that provided financial and service assistance to people with hearing impairments.
- $32 Million in cuts to the grants-in-lieu to urban municipalities, forcing urban residents to pay higher taxes and fees.
- The increase in fees for long-term care residents, many of whom are living on fixed incomes.
- Cuts in Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) and Transitional Employment Allowance benefits.
- The sell-off of ecologically-sensitive native prairie grassland held by the Saskatchewan Pastures Program.
- 45% cut to funding for the Meewasin Valley Authority and 50% cuts in funding to Regional Parks.
- Cuts to mentoring and home visitation services for expectant mothers.
- Cuts to funding for daycares for children with special needs.
- 39% cut in funds for wildfire management.
- 10% cut to funds for community-based organizations that provide front-line services in areas such as healthcare, housing, and justice.
- An increase to the PST (a flat tax that impacts low-income people most).
- The addition of PST on children’s clothing and restaurant meals.
- Cuts to the emergency stabilization shelter at the Lighthouse Supported Living centres.
Let’s use the momentum from the libraries victory to embolden our movement. We can build on its success, reaching out to our neighbours and having the conversations about the kind of province we want to live in, and revitalizing grassroots democracy in the process. We can build a common front that doesn’t leave anyone behind. This means putting the needs and voices of people on social assistance, the unemployed, low-income, and disabled, and, crucially, First Nations and Indigenous people, at the core of our fightback. Let’s demand that the government repeal the entire budget or resign.