Ottawa refocusing literacy funding

The federal government says it has cut core funding to literacy groups across the country in order to spend more money on programs.

P.E.I. Literacy Alliance says it's at risk of folding

The federal government says it has cut core funding to literacy groups across the country in order to focus on program funding.

When we're gone there won't be anybody promoting literacy on [Prince Edward] Island.- Catherine O'Bryan, P.E.I. Literacy Alliance

Federal funding for many literacy organizations has been cut. The P.E.I. Literacy Alliance says it cannot survive without it, and Literacy Nova Scotia has mounted a campaign to have the cuts reversed.

In an email to CBC News, Pierre Nolet of the media relations office at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada wrote the government is cutting the funding to organizations to focus on programs.

"For many years, federal literacy funding through the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills was going to the same organizations to cover the costs of administration and countless research papers, instead of being used to fund projects that actually result in Canadians improving their literacy skills," wrote Nolet.

Nolet said the organizations were advised three years ago to prepare for the move from core funding to project funding. The project funding will be available to any organization in the country, he said.

Catherine O'Bryan, executive director of the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance, is uncertain what organization might come forward to offer literacy programs in the province. She told CBC News its $150,000 in core funding from Ottawa runs out at the end of June. That represents about 75 per cent of the alliance's budget, and it likely won't be able to operate without it.

"When we're gone there won't be anybody promoting literacy on the Island. And pointing out how important it is to provide programs for people with low literacy levels," said O'Bryan.

The alliance, which employs three staff members, does some fund raising and can continue to operate for another six to nine months, said O'Bryan.

She points out, however, that while its core funding essentially pays for office staff, that without those staff the programs the group administers would not be supported. The summer tutoring program is one of the projects run by the organization. O'Bryan says that program will be able to go ahead this summer, but its future is unclear. 

Literacy groups say they've been told they'll be able to apply for funding through a new RFP process later this summer, but say they haven't been told what the criteria will be.

The federal government told the alliance in 2006 its funding had been cut before restoring it.


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