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September 12, 2017

Literacy Matters!

The following is an open letter to all Atlantic Premiers, Members of Parliament and Senators addressing the need to reinstate adequate, stable and predictable funding for literacy and essential skills development in Atlantic Canada. 

Click here for the PDF version

September 8, 2017

Dear Premier Ball, Premier Gallant, Premier MacLauchlan and Premier McNeil,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Atlantic Partnership for Literacy and Essential Skills, a collaboration of the PEI Literacy Alliance, Literacy Nova Scotia and the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick, to address the need to re-instate adequate, predictable, and stable funding for literacy and essential skills development in Atlantic Canada.

Almost 50% of Atlantic Canadians do not have the literacy and essential skills required to work and thrive in a knowledge-based, digital society. There has never been a more important time to support adult and family literacy programs and yet, Literacy Newfoundland and Labrador has already closed its doors, and the impending closure of the PEI Literacy Alliance leaves just Literacy Nova Scotia and the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick to fill a void that is getting larger.

For over 25 years, our organizations have provided literacy services, programs and supports to Atlantic Canadians. Until three years ago, the Federal Government of Canada supported our work through adequate, predictable, and stable funding, administered by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. This funding helped our organizations run in an administratively sound and accountable manner and enabled us to carry out ongoing activities in support of our mandates and the needs of the literacy and essential skills field. In 2014, the federal government cut funding and dismantled a once vibrant and effective network of provincial, territorial and national literacy organizations. To date, only 8 of the original 15 remain in operation, most of them by a thread.

In the Atlantic region, we have played an active role in addressing the need for federal support. In February 2015, we responded to the call for project proposals from the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES). We are still engaged in negotiations on the proposed project, over two years later, even though in 2015/2016 ESDC was underspent on literacy and essential skills projects by over $13 million. In October 2016, we presented the attached statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance during pre-Budget consultations and recommended that funding be re-instated by the federal government in the amount of $600,000 per year over 4 years ($150,000 for each organization per year). This funding would provide us with the stability we need to:

·Develop a collaborative approach with all stakeholders to ensure quality and accessible programming is in place in our region, enabling Atlantic Canadians to have opportunities to participate fully at work, at home, and in their community;

·Sustain and grow our ability to identify needs and gaps in services and develop an effective strategy that responds to the needs of our communities; and

·Share knowledge and successful models of literacy training and support in areas such as workforce development, youth and early years, family and adult literacy in our region as well as other jurisdictions in Canada.

After more than two years of lobbying and meeting with federal officials, we were advised in August by Minister Patricia Hajdu’s office, that funding for core programs from the federal government would not be reinstated. The lapse in response from the federal government, coupled with the lack of long term, stable financial support has decidedly reduced our capacity to ensure the success of projects, carry out our core literacy services and address emerging needs in our communities.

To simply cut funding off to literacy programs doesn’t make economic or moral sense, but that is exactly what is happening. This is in sharp contrast to the following Liberal statements made in the attached letter dated September 30, 2015:

Lifelong learning and literacy must become a Canada-wide priority to both enhance our standard of living and economic competitiveness in the years ahead because these skills are vital to ensuring employability and success in today’s society. Harper government’s decision to gut funding to organizations like the Canadian Council on Learning and abandon the federal role in lifelong learning has undermined both. The federal government has an important role to play, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, in supporting lifelong learning and adult literacy. Today, there are too many hard-working Canadians who are looking to upgrade their skills and find better jobs, but do not have access to the training that they require. A Liberal government will make it easier for adults to get the additional skills they need to acquire and retain good jobs throughout their working lives.

Liberals understand the fundamental role that the not-for-profit sector plays in both policy development and program delivery for Canadians. The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to renewing the federal government’s partnership with civil society.

A Liberal government will work in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, including adult education providers and researchers, to explore more effective ways to provide funding for the important work you do. Our party understands that we must improve funding delivery mechanisms to support the not-for-profit sector to achieve accountability, while at the same time providing adequate, predictable, and stable funding.

While the federal government is interested in providing project-based funding for adult literacy, It’s not enough. Project-based funding pays for valuable short-term initiatives, but it does not pay for the background work that keeps an organization healthy and able to meet the existing and emerging literacy needs of our communities. Without adequate, predictable, and stable funding, our organizational capacity continues to erode and our ability to leverage funds for important project work is significantly diminished.

 We are efficient organizations who provide much needed literacy and essential skills services to Atlantic Canadians, especially to the most vulnerable populations. As workplaces require more and more technical and digital competency, and as we have less time for informal learning with our families because of work schedules, the importance of literacy and essential skill development becomes urgent.

We continue to receive some support from our provincial governments, our communities, and local businesses, however, we are facing complex challenges which require stronger partnerships between all sectors and all levels of government. A better alignment of federal and provincial policy objectives in critical areas including labour force development is necessary to build a strong economy in which education and training are vital to the long-term future of our region.

We need your support on this issue to ensure that all stakeholders, including the federal government, are doing their part. Literacy skills are essential and the foundation for all learning. Populations with high literacy skills are more likely to live in safe communities, enjoy better health outcomes and earn higher incomes, in other words, the kind of place we all want Atlantic Canada to be.

Sincerely,


Amanda Beazley
Executive Director
PEI Literacy Alliance


Cc: All Atlantic Members of Parliament, Senators and media outlets


 

 

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