10 May 2012
Government defends move to scrap printed publications
OTTAWA—As of 2014, a printed publication from the Government of Canada will be a much rarer find.

With the intent to reduce costs and go green, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and its Publishing and Depository Services, the official publisher for the Government of Canada, has announced the plan to switch all its traditionally printed publications to be only available in electronic format by 2014.

PWGSC is currently responsible for over 60 free and priced government publications that are offered to other government departments, suppliers, and parliamentarians, as well as the general public.

Examples of PWGSC publications include:
  • Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the Government of Canada.
  • Main Estimates, support documents for parliament decisions.
  • Specialty publications like the commemoration book for the 95 year anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Additionally, PWGSC distributes government publications free of charge to a network of libraries through its Depository Services Program.

PWGSC produces all of its current publications on a budget of $762,000. Costs should decrease by 2014 as the figure includes the printing and postage costs for the print communications. However it shouldn't be a significant drop as PWGSC spokesperson Sebastien Bois said already many of the PWGSC publications are only offered electronically. Bois also said no money will have to be invested in servers to retain all the electronic information.

When PWGSC chooses to print a publication, the jobs are contracted out to external printing companies, which are determined "in accordance with contracting policies currently in place," said Bois. So the decision to cease printing will have no lay-offs in PWGSC but some loss of business for the printing companies who were occasionally contracted.

One of the main reasons behind this decision is how PWGSC noticed demand for its printed publications had rapidly decreased while the use of PWGSC electronic publications was on the rise. Bois cited the example of the Canada Gazette.

"The demand for paper copies of the Canada Gazette has significantly declined. The number of private subscribers in 2012 is 223 compared to 1,466 in 2007, which means a decrease of about 85 percent," he said.

Meanwhile, publications.gc.ca has seen an increase of close to 2.2 million unique visitors on the site and nearly 10 million downloads annually.

As a result, PWGSC feels this digital trend is here to stay, and wants to assure it's using the most popular methods of interaction. 

"PWGSC is using different tools to communicate effectively with Canadians," said Bois. "As Canadians are using the internet more and more, PWGSC is anticipating a further decrease in demand for printed publications. The transition to electronic publication is in line with the way we communicate in the 21st century."

With the hope to decrease carbon emissions and eliminate the costs associated with printing and distributing hard copies, this decision also aligns with the Government of Canada's greening government efforts and the deficit reducing measures of the 2012 budget.

While PWGSC's Publishing and Depository Services is the official publishing resource for the Government of Canada, other federal departments sometimes produce publications without relying on PWGSC for publication services. In those cases, whether a publication is printed depends on the specific marketing efforts for that individual project.
— Mike Woodward
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