Independent booksellers feel cheated

Photo: Pedro Ruiz The Duty
Renaud-Bray has won the SODEC grants totaling $ 1.1 million in 2016-2017.

The funds of the action Plan on the book created by Quebec, to help the network of bookstores across the province have greatly benefited the giant Renaud-Bray, reveal data SODEC. An unexpected situation, which “shocked” the players in the middle of independent bookstores.


“Is this a company at maturity of the magnitude of Renaud-Bray [RB] really need help from the State ? asked Thursday at the Duty Dominique Lemieux, director general of the cooperative of independent Bookstores in Québec (LIQ). I don’t think. “


Mr. Lemieux is far from being the only one to be surprised of the figures contained in the annual management report 2016-2017 of the SODEC (Société de développement des enterprises culturelles) — a topic that occupies much of the conversations at the Salon du livre de Montréal.


It is the independent bookstores in Québec were affected last year, some 572 000 $ in the framework of the help pane of the SODEC for the bookstores. These monies are awarded in support of the promotion and to the computerization of libraries. The co-operatives in middle school — which complement the network of independent — have reached 237 000 $.


During the same period, the 46 branch offices approved by the group Renaud-Bray and Archambault have received close to 760 000 $. The group has also obtained two grants for ” community projects “, a value of $ 405,000. In total, more than 1.1 million as Renaud-Bray has received from the SODEC.


However, this is a net increase to the group Renaud-Bray. In recent years, RB or Archambault had, in effect, they have never qualified for grants for the promotion and computerization for libraries. The annual reports of the SODEC show that the two strings involved each year less than $ 10,000 in support for the transport of books to the branches remote. Nothing more.


“There has always been requests, but Renaud-Bray has never had [before last year] other grants for transportation “, confirms the spokesperson of the company, Denise Courteau. It is otherwise referred our questions to the SODEC. “We do not comment on never a controversy in the public square. “


The SODEC will review


If so is it past that Renaud-Bray gets suddenly of the amounts evaded in the past ? In a written response sent Thursday evening to the Duty, the SODEC found that ” for the moment, the settings of the programs do not allow limitations on access to subsidies, depending on the type of bookstores, their size or their belonging to a large business group “.


The company promises the changes in its program by one year to take account of the ” realities of the various points of sale “, in particular. But it does not explain precisely what has changed between 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 in the processing of applications for Renaud-Bray. Behind the scenes, a number of stakeholders evoke a lobbying important part of the chain of bookstores.


The SODEC is merely noted that,” Archambault and Renaud-Bray have received support only the second year ” of the action plan. Spread out over two years, subsidies received by the chain represent one-quarter of the allocation for the libraries, says-t-on. This is the message that SODEC has communicated to the stakeholders during a meeting held in the last days.


The plan of action of Quebec provided $ 5.7 million over two years to ” optimize the performance of the bookstores “. Accreditation is a status granted by the ministry of Culture, to libraries who can sell books to institutional buyers (libraries, schools, ministries, etc.). This is the entrance door to the grants.


The boost of Quebec has increased the aid budget to the bookstores of 911 000 $ in 2014-2015 to 1.2 million the next year and to 1.5 million in the last year — always for the shutters promotion or computerization.


The expense


But regardless of the details : the independent booksellers believe that the sensational arrival of Renaud-Bray on the market grant was made to the detriment of their own network, which counts some 140 stores.


“When one makes the comparison between 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, in spite of the increase of the amounts invested, we note that the independent bookstores have lost nearly $ 300,000 for the promotion and co-ops that have lost 140 000 $ for computerization,” says Katherine Fafard, director general of the Association of booksellers du Québec (ALQ).


“In the past,” continues Ms. Fafard, assistance for bookstores has always been understood as a help to the independent, because the budget was small. When the action Plan on the book was announced by Quebec, it was applauded to the improvement of the assistance program to bookstores. It was thought that it was good news, until we see the data in 2016-2017. “


“There is really a appearance that is scandalous in what we see today, says Dominique Lemieux. The Quebec plan of action was to support the bibliodiversité. This is not what has been done. “The situation is also qualified as “aberrant” by the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres (ANEL).


The office of the minister of Culture, Marie Montpetit, did not wish to comment on the record Thursday.

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