The Anglican Journal, along with other members of the Canadian Church Press (CCP) and Magazines Canada, a lobby group of mainstream Canadian magazines, are protesting recent cuts in their annual postal subsidies from the Department of Canadian Heritage, saying the decision was “arbitrary” and could imperil the future of many publications.
The cuts, which took effect Nov. 1, translate into a $58,200 loss in 2006 for the Journal and diocesan newspapers, which previously had received an annual subsidy of $523,594 from the department’s Publications Assis-tance Program (PAP) to support its mailing costs.
The PAP, which has been in effect since before Confederation, is intended to “promote Canadian culture and avoid a domination of American publications, recognizing that Canada is a very vast country and populations are spread out,” according to the Journal’s circulation manager, Beverley Murphy. About 1,200 Canadian publications, including popular magazines like Maclean’s and Canadian Living, receive a subsidy through the PAP.
Ms. Murphy said that the Journal and other publications are taking a double hit since Canada Post has also announced a 2.9 per cent increase in postal rates effective Jan. 1, 2006. For the Journal and its publishing partners, the church’s diocesan newspapers (which are mailed together with the Journal), it means an extra $10,300 in postage
With the previous level of subsidy, the Journal and the diocesan papers spent $354,000 annually in mailing costs. With the reduced PAP subsidy and increased postage, mailing costs in 2006 will shoot up to $422,500. (Without any subsidy, mailing costs would quadruple and the Journal, as well as most diocesan papers, might not survive.)
The changes particularly affect church publications like the Journal, which is already reeling from budget cuts as its denomination struggles with payments to the Residential School Settlement Fund, said Ms. Murphy.
The Journal and the CCP have written to Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla and members of Parliament urging them not to go ahead with the cuts saying these “have a significant negative impact on the enhancement of Canadian culture through the printed word.”
Ms. Murphy said publishers have also expressed concern about the possibility of further cuts in subsidy since the department’s funding for the PAP will be reduced from $49.4 million to $45.4 million by April 1, 2006.
She added that if the postal rates continue to rise (they have risen 27 per cent since 1999) and the PAP subsidies continue to fall in the coming years, “I don’t think that we could maintain the Journal and the diocesan papers at the current set up.”
In a letter to subsidy recipients, PAP manager Maria Tiley said that cuts had to be made to accommodate Canada Post’s new publications mail rates.
Ms. Murphy said the cuts could be attributed to the lack of co-operation between Canada Post and the Canadian Heritage Department.
“Every time Canada Post increases its rates it affects us but it also affects Heritage Canada if their budget is fixed. In order to keep their budget the same, they have to reduce the amount of funding that they give and that’s a big problem,” she said, adding that the two bureaucracies need to work together. “For two to three years … they announced the rates and calculated them together. They haven’t been doing that at all lately. It’s like it’s almost a surprise to the other and each has to counteract what the other is doing and publishers are stuck in the middle.”
Ms. Murphy also decried the “lack of notice” given by the Canadian Heritage Department about the reduced subsidy, noting that publishers were only informed of the changes two months before the implementation date, instead of the customary six to 12 months.