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Pandemic threatens B.C. book industry: publishers | Regional | Pique Newsmagazine

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The COVID-19 lockdown has prompted schools and libraries to give the public free online access to many books, and Canadian publishers are warning that the model cuts sharply into their revenue and cannot be sustained.

The news is especially dire for B.C.’s community of 30 publishers, the largest in Canada outside of Ontario. Publishing houses say local publishers are among the only channels for B.C. authors to develop, and if either publishers or authors cannot get paid for their work, B.C.’s literary ecosystem may be in danger.

“Publishers are smart and resilient, but there’s a limit,” said Ruth Linka, associate publisher with Victoria-based Orca Book Publishers. “It’s really hard to say right now how long publishers can continue with really drastic cuts to their income.

“Like any business, you can’t pay rent or your staff and keep publishing books if you don’t have revenue coming in. I don’t think we are talking about days or weeks … but for sure, if something doesn’t improve over the next couple of months, it’s not going to be sustainable for many in our industry.”

Association of Canadian Publishers Executive Director Kate Edwards said the book industry was already under pressure, mostly with the advent of e-books and other formats. As the costs skyrocket with the move to different online formats, the core revenue of publishers and authors, which is generated from book sales, has remained flat as the price of books remains largely unchanged.

Now, with the pandemic essentially shutting down bookstores for months (with some finally reopening this month under B.C.’s Phase 2 relaunch), that lifeline for the industry has essentially been slowed to a trickle, Edwards said.

The most recent data indicates book sales so far this year have fallen 30 per cent from 2019 figures, with sales at retail book stores plummeting 60 per cent.

Worse, another major channel of book sales, to schools and libraries, has also been turned upside down with social distancing. Publishers are now issuing free temporary licences that allow students to download books or teachers to read the books to students over the internet.

“As schools quickly had to change the way they teach—which is from a distance—publishers began quickly receiving requests for digital versions of books,” Edwards said. “The teacher may have the books in the classroom, and that’s not available to students … in the short-term. Given the emergency, publishers have been as flexible and generous as possible to ensure students’ education is not disrupted.”

But these free licences cannot be issued for long-term use because it would push publishers out of business—taking many homegrown authors in B.C. and other provinces with them, Edwards noted.

“As we look forward to next school year … publishers can supply [books] in various formats through whatever channels are available to ensure that the content is not only available, but compensated for on the other side.”

The Canadian publishing industry annually generates about $1.6 billion. It includes everything from trades (fiction and non-fiction) and children’s books to educational and scholarly text. The largest international houses are the most resilient to economic challenges like COVID-19 because the likes of Penguin Random House and HarperCollins control the market for books from most of the world’s high-profile authors, and those are the books most in demand.

In comparison, the Canadian-owned publishing houses—which represent about $425 million in annual sales—are largely small-to-medium-sized companies that concentrate on newer Canadian authors, an indispensable part of the grassroots literary culture of Canada.

“Local publishers are responsible for about 80 per cent of new Canadian books published each year,” Edwards said. “And British Columbia is one of the strongest regional publishing cultures in the country. Publishers are finding new authors in the local community and investing in their careers … and they are competing with the entire world of content.”

She added that, even with retail stores now reopening, most of the books being sold are already in stock; publishers have not received many new orders and may have to accept returned unsold stock given the COVID-19 lockdown.

For Orca Books, a publisher mainly of children’s books with a 35-year history and a staff of 30, the task of publishing 80 to 100 books a year as it normally does has become herculean, even for an industry that has survived multiple challenges in recent years, Linka said.

“This is completely unprecedented. For sure there have been times when the economy was suffering … even libraries and schools have had budget cuts before. But to have all this happen at once to this extent, it’s unfathomable just three months ago. I heard from a lot of publishers that there has been a 70-per-cent to 80-per-cent decrease in sales, and some of it has been mitigated by e-book sales, but it hasn’t come close to replacing what we had.”

Both Edwards and Linka said all the stakeholders in the educational sector need to sit down and discuss fair pay for content starting in the fall school year.

Publishers say they are open to suggestions, but the bottom line is that every revenue channel helps in keeping businesses open and authors and publishing houses need to get compensated if their work is read—especially when the overall market has been squeezed.

If not, Linka said, the threat of a B.C. reading and education culture dominated by content from outside the province becomes inescapable, and that would hurt the literature world and erode B.C.’s unique cultural identity.

“Publishing started in Western Canada decades ago when people in the West felt their stories weren’t being represented,” Linka said. “Vancouver has fantastic urban, diverse content … and vibrant publishers like Anvil Publishing and Arsenal Pulp Press who tell these stories around the world.

“Every region of the world should have their own publishing industry so their voices are represented … We love it when we can represent a broader social experience, and local publishing enables that because it’s more in touch with the landscape, history, culture and, ultimately, people of our region.”

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This essential worker’s child-care costs have almost tripled during COVID-19

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A Halifax-area veterinarian says she’s spending nearly three times the amount of money on child care during COVID-19, and she wants the province to step up and help essential workers who are struggling financially.

Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that hasn’t kept regulated child-care centres open for essential workers. Despite a promise by the premier in early May to reassess that approach, Dr. Lindsay MacNeil said she’s still waiting.

“There’s really not a lot of help for that and by not a lot, I guess I mean none,” MacNeil, who works at Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., told CBC’s Maritime Noon on Monday.

MacNeil is a single parent and said she’s working extra shifts to afford to pay for a babysitter to care for her three-year-old daughter.

Before COVID-19, she said she spent about $800 a month at a licensed daycare, and a full-time babysitter who comes to her home now costs her about $2,200 a month.

MacNeil worries essential workers are having to choose between work and making sure their kids are looked after. (Dr. Lindsay MacNeil)

“It’s really made me kind of have to sit down and really watch what we’re spending on,” MacNeil said. “Having it almost triple is a big hit to take during anytime, especially when there’s already a lot of stressors happening.”

MacNeil was able to find a babysitter on Kijiji who was willing to only work with her family, and she said she’s thankful she was able to find someone she trusts.

The province initially suggested parents who needed to work could still use unregulated child-care operations, which have remained open, but MacNeil said those spots filled up quickly.

“So there’s really nobody else that I can rely on,” she said. “And there are a number of people that I can think of in my life that are experiencing this and I can only imagine there are even more.”

At the beginning of May, Premier Stephen McNeil said his government would evaluate the child-care needs of essential service workers after students at Dalhousie University who were providing child care for health-care workers called on the government to do more.

June 8 reopening uncertain

Licensed daycares have been closed since late March and while the province has set June 8 as a target date to reopen, it’s unclear whether that date will be met.

MacNeil said she’s not advocating that daycares reopen before it’s safe to do so. Rather, she wants the province to provide some form of financial aid to offset the higher costs of daycare.

“I think there’s a lot of people in this position and we’re kind of asking and reaching out and trying to verbalize that this is a concern and we need more support, but it’s falling on deaf ears,” she said.

What the province is doing

In a statement from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the province said a group of child-care representatives is working with public health to establish a plan to reopen the licensed child-care sector.

The department also said it’s committed to working with essential workers to address their needs.

“To ensure families are not paying for a service they cannot access, the department directed licensed child-care providers to not charge families fees during this time,” a statement said.

“Unlicensed childcare providers have continued to operate and provide an important service to fill the child-care needs of families during COVID-19, including essential workers.”

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Schools expected to reopen to staff June 1, says English school district

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Newfoundland and Labrador English School District director of education Tony Stack says schools are expected to reopen to teachers next week. File photo. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Schools in the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District are expected to reopen to teachers next week, according to director of education Tony Stack.

In a memo sent to staff Monday, Stack said the district expects the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to make the announcement that schools will reopen June 1 to teachers, teaching assistants and secretaries for the remainder of the school year. 

Teachers and staff are expected to close out the current school year by completing transition plans for students, preparing final report cards — which will be issued the week of June 22 — and completing two professional learning courses. 

Teachers are also expected to begin preparation for the next school year. 

“We acknowledge that, at present, public health authorities continue to encourage working from home where possible. I am also aware that some of you have geographical limitations, health concerns, or issues regarding the care of family members that may, wholly or partially, prevent you going into your school,” Stack said.

Stack said staff can continue to work from home, providing they complete the work to close out the school year. 

Home-learning plans will be suspended June 5 to allow teachers time to complete their final tasks and focus on preparing for 2020-21, Stack said. 

Stack said in the memo the school district has been expecting the announcement for some time, adding that custodial staff will play a key role in preparation for next year. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Laurentian Bank renews its partnership with Mackenzie Investments to offer an exclusive series of mutual funds to its personal customers

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MONTREAL, May 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Laurentian Bank announced today that is has extended an existing partnership with Mackenzie Investments (Mackenzie) by three years.  The agreement will see Mackenzie continue to provide fund management services for an exclusive series of mutual funds for Laurentian Bank’s personal customers.

“We are very pleased to renew this partnership with Mackenzie Investments. They have been a trusted partner to us over the years and we value their commitment to innovation and solid reputation in the investment community. We’re proud to leverage their expertise to the benefit of our customers by offering a simple, competitive and innovative series of Mackenzie mutual funds,” stated Stéphane Therrien, Executive Vice President, Personal & Commercial Banking of Laurentian Bank and President and Chief Executive Officer of LBC Financial Services.

Since 2012, Laurentian Bank has worked with Mackenzie to provide its customers with an exclusive series of mutual funds. Through this partnership, Laurentian Bank’s personal customers have access to a range of over 60 funds to meet their investment needs.

“Our long-standing partnership with Laurentian Bank is important to us and we’re delighted that we’ll be continuing  to work together to help their customers achieve their financial goals, whether it be the purchase of a home, funding for education or being able to achieve their dream retirement lifestyle,” said Barry McInerney, President & CEO, Mackenzie Investments.  “Mackenzie’s investment management team is committed to providing investors with access to solutions based on performance, choice and innovation.”  

Mutual funds are distributed by LBC Financial Services Inc. (LBCFS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Laurentian Bank of Canada. Mutual funds offered by LBCFS are part of the Laurentian Bank Group of Funds managed by Mackenzie Investments.

About Laurentian Bank Financial Group

Founded in 1846, Laurentian Bank Financial Group is a diversified financial services provider whose mission is to help its customers improve their financial health. The Laurentian Bank of Canada and its entities are collectively referred to as Laurentian Bank Financial Group (the “Group” or the “Bank”).

With more than 3,200 employees guided by the values of proximity, simplicity and honesty, the Group provides a broad range of advice-based solutions and services to its personal, business and institutional customers. With pan-Canadian activities and a presence in the U.S., the Group is an important player in numerous market segments.

The Group has $44 billion in balance sheet assets and $29 billion in assets under administration.

About Mackenzie Investments

Mackenzie Investments was founded in 1967 and is a leading investment management firm providing investment advisory and related services. With $135.6 billion in assets under management as of April 30, 2020, Mackenzie Investments distributes its investment services through multiple distribution channels to both retail and institutional investors. Mackenzie Investments is a member of the IGM Financial Inc. (TSX: IGM) group of companies. IGM Financial is one of Canada’s premier financial services companies with $159.4 billion in total assets under management as of April 30, 2020. For more information, visit mackenzieinvestments.com.

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