B.C. backtracks on commitment to literacy programs

BCGEU calls on Campbell government to live up to its spring election campaign promise.

 
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell campaigning for re-electionVancouver (23 July 2009) - The B.C. government of Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell is cutting literacy funding, contrary to its "number one" election campaign goal, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

During the election last spring, the Liberals promised "to make B.C. the best educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent."

However, on July 9, Janice Nakamura, executive director of the learning programs branch of the ministry of advanced education and labour market development wrote in an e-mail that the ministry's community adult literacy programs (CALPs) and regional literacy coordinators (RLCs) are "part of the funding review."

Then, on July 16, 21 RLCs were informed that their jobs are being cut, only one year after the government created the positions. Eight of the workers are represented by the BCGEU.

"These workers help some of our most marginalized citizens get their lives on track and plan their futures," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "Cutting these jobs is short-sighted and will negatively impact those who most need training to weather the current economic challenges. We call on the government to immediately reinstate funding for these positions."

Last year the government created these university and college-based positions as a response to recommendations from the B.C. auditor general, who identified the need for better coordination of the government's literacy goals.

Michael Coell, then minister of advanced education, said at the time that RLCs would "help to lay the foundation for implementation of workplace literacy and essential skills initiatives" across the province.

"According to the ministry's representative, funding for CALPs is also under review. Will it be the next to be cut?" asks Walker. "How does the government hope to accomplish its literacy goals by cutting jobs and programs specifically designed to improve literacy? It just doesn't make sense."

In contrast to the government's approach, other Canadian jurisdictions have increased funding for literacy. The Alberta government, for example, boosted funding for libraries by 39% in its April budget.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE