Literacy workers and learners who have been waiting to hear about how each party will fund and address literacy research and development after the election may have a long wait according to Carol Goar, who writes in today's Toronto Star:
...Regrettably, the federal government is withdrawing from the field. Eight months after taking power, the Conservatives chopped funding for adult literacy by $17.7 million [from a budget of $42 million]. They replaced the National Literacy Secretariat, set up Brian Mulroney 21 years ago, with their own Office of Literacy and Learning. But it deals only with national organizations. The network of provincial and local literacy organizations that linked thousands of volunteers has withered....
Across the country, educators, librarians, employers and community leaders are doing their best to reach out to people who need help reading, writing and getting started in a new country. But as Judith Maxwell, founding president of Canadian Policy Research Networks, notes: "Governments are more and more leaving it to the individual to find the right literacy training."
Naturally, this withdrawal of support at the top has affected morale in the trenches. Although charities such as the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament, ABC Literacy, the Movement for Canadian Literacy and Frontier College are doing a terrific job, they can't provide a pan-Canadian action plan. Nor do they have the resources to reach the 9 million Canadians whose inability to meet the demands of a typical workplace is holding them back.
This ought to be an issue in the federal election campaign. But none of the political parties has made it a priority.
The Conservatives regard literacy as a provincial responsibility. One of the reasons they cited for cutting federal funding in 2006 was that it wasn't Ottawa's job to do "repair work" for provinces that weren't teaching kids to read properly in the first place.
The Liberals have said they will implement a national literacy strategy. But there's no mention of it – and no money for it – in their election platform.
The New Democrats pledge to "press for a pan-Canadian strategy on lifelong learning that would go beyond simply restoring the Conservative funding cuts." But they have not released details.
The Green party is committed to eliminating illiteracy, but has no plan to do it. It says illiteracy is a reflection of Canada's social deficit.
The Bloc Québécois has no literacy policy, except to demand higher provincial transfer payments.
One way to let the Star, other media outlets and perhaps election campaigners know that it is important to keep shining a light on the issue is to comment on this story.