Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

Bill 132 Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019

(Omnibus red tape / burden reduction bill)

Bill 132 – Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019 – What Does it Mean for Public Libraries?

On Oct. 28, 2019, the Ontario government tabled its proposed red tape and regulatory burden legislation. This included two proposed amendments to the Public Libraries Act impacting public library boards.

  • If passed, the first amendment would give permanent residents, in addition to Canadian citizens, the opportunity to serve as public library board members. This amendment would provide Ontario’s library boards with a larger and more diverse pool of potential board members. This will enable public library boards across the province to welcome new voices, increase diversity & inclusion in our community leadership, and help them better respond to the evolving needs of the communities they serve.
  • The second proposed amendment would reduce the minimum number of meetings a public library board is required to hold each year. Bill 132 proposes to reduce the minimum number of meetings to 4 per year (from the current minimum of 10). Our understanding is that the intent of this amendment is to provide more flexibility for public library boards to determine the appropriate number of meetings needed for their local circumstances. Public library boards will still be able to hold regular meetings more frequently than the mandatory minimum, and can also declare special and emergency meetings accordingly as set out under the Public Libraries Act.

As the bill proceeds for debate in the Ontario Legislature, the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries is interested in feedback from the library sector on these proposals. In an effort to ensure that we represent our member’s best interests and reflect their local needs, FOPL and OLA surveyed our public library board members and CEOs to gather insight on the local impact of the province’s proposed change to the minimum number of mandatory meetings for public library boards. From data and comments received, we learned:

    • Public library boards remain an essential component of ensuring that local libraries are community-led, responsive to evolving local needs, and are effectively governed.
    • As most public library board members are unpaid and serve in a part-time capacity, significantly reducing the number of mandatory meetings threatens the ability of many boards to operate effectively and in a timely manner.
    • While many respondents acknowledged that a reduction in the mandatory minimum was reasonable, there was significant concern that the proposed minimum of 4 meetings was too few and unworkable. A minimum of 7-8 meetings per year was the most preferred option.
  • Some respondents were concerned that any reduction in the minimum number of meetings could create significant challenges for their public library board.
  • Many respondents recognized that library boards could still choose to hold more than the mandatory minimum number of meetings, and would recommend doing so.

Over 350 individuals responded to this survey, representing a complete cross-section of Ontario’s public libraries. Your feedback is an important part of our engagement effort, and will be taken very seriously in informing the debate, and possibly amending, the bill before it becomes law.

More information on the proposed amendments is available here: https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-1/bill-132.

FOPL/OLA Responses

“FOPL welcomes the Ontario government’s proposal to open the door for permanent residents to serve on Ontario’s public library boards. This positive change will enable local public libraries across Ontario to welcome new voices, increase diversity & inclusion in our community leadership, and help them better respond to the evolving needs of the communities we serve.”

FOPL supports the government’s consultation with our sector to achieve the correct minimum number of meetings for our boards.  Our boards provide community leadership and decision-making – a model for library leadership globally.

In an effort to ensure that we represent our member’s best interests we surveyed our public library CEOs and Boards.  The results show that they generally feel that 4 meetings is too few and have a clear preference for 7-8 meeting at a minimum per year for effective governance.

Here are the poll results:

Download the PDF (12 pages): Bill 132 FOPL Survey Final Data_All_191105 (2)

FOPL has requested standing at the Committee hearings after second reading.  We hope to make a deputation there.  Otherwise, we are submitting a written deputation following our internal communications.

Questions? sabram@fopl.ca