Because News

It's brutal news: Rick Mercer on Newfoundland library cuts

'It’s been a tough week to be a Newfoundlander.'

When news broke that over half of Newfoundland's libraries will close due to budget cuts, no panellist was more upset than Newfoundland's favourite son, comedian Rick Mercer. Listen below to hear his 'rant' on the matter.

When news broke that over half of Newfoundland’s libraries will close due to budget cuts, no panellist was more upset than Newfoundland’s favourite son, comedian Rick Mercer.

Continuing Newfoundland's war on literacy, the province also announced a ten per cent tax on books.

"This is killing me as a Newfoundlander; yes it will be us: we will be the only province that taxes books, and we're shutting all the libraries down, and we have one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the country."

But Because News panellist Aisha Alfa didn't see it that way. "Do we really need to have as many brick and mortar places to get books?"

Alfa suggested handing out Kindles to the community, taking inspiration from Australia, where schooling is done over the radio. "In the Outback, you can sit at home and listen to your lessons."

Tom Howell, former dictionary editor and lexicographer, said what he'd miss most are the librarians. "I think there's something to be said about an institution underwritten by the government that expects you to be imaginative and to have some interesting thoughts. Because otherwise who else expects you to have interesting thoughts? Tim Horton's doesn't expect you to have interesting thoughts."

If you want to destroy rural Newfoundland and harm children, it's an excellent start.- Rick Mercer rants about Newfoundland library closures

Because News host Gavin Crawford asked if libraries and books are fair game when cuts need to be made in a struggling economy.  Rick Mercer wasn't having any of it.

"When you increase taxes on cigarettes, you raise money but the side effects is less people smoke. So when you are increasing taxes on books, you are accepting the fact that fewer books will be sold. And so it is an attack on literacy, there's no other way to look at it."

"I'm sorry, this is supposed to be a funny show," 

Estimates are the average Newfoundland family will pay an extra $3000 a year in taxes. Mercer admits that the province has overspent in recent years, but he puts the current troubles squarely at the feet of the Liberal premier.

"The person who's in charge of the budget, as far as I can see, is an idiot  and he's doing it by raising taxes on things like books."

With all this in mind, Because News is making an effort to keep Newfoundland reading. And the best way to do that is with a silly hashtag game. We want you to take a work of fiction and add some Newfoundland to it.

You're up, Canada. What's your favourite work of #Newfoundlit.  Tweet us @CBCBecauseNews and use the hashtag #Newfoundlit.

You can listen to the entire quiz round and more of Mercer's rant by clicking on the audio above.