Finally, all the literacy and essential skills money is spent

According to the Public Accounts, OLES spent $24,552,359 in fiscal year 2018-2019 under the Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program (ALLESP) – 99% of its total budget.

While the Main Estimates allocated $18,009,000, the program received an additional $6,756,410 to make up the total of $24.5m. It spent all but $213,051 of those additional funds. I see a listing for the Government of Quebec for $6,400,000 which might explain why OLES received the the additional funds.

Since 2016-2017, the first full year of the Trudeau government, ALLESP spending has gone from 47% of funds approved by Parliament to 99% in 2018-2019.

The following is the list organizations and the amount of funds received in 2018-2019. Many of these are multi-year projects either having started in prior years and/or continuing into the next few years, so the amounts listed here are only what were paid out in 2018-2019. Public Accounts does not provide information on the nature of the project. All funds were given out under 33 contribution agreements; no funds were provided as grants.

Not all OLES sponsored projects are listed since OLES uses EI Part II funds for some of the projects while 5 projects were under $100,000 and so the name of the group is not listed.

Aboriginal Community Careers Services Society, West Vancouver, British Columbia $519,153
Alberta Rural Development Network, Sherwood Park, Alberta $185,973
Biotalent Canada, Ottawa, Ontario $357,495
Bow Valley College, Calgary, Alberta $738,764
BuildForce Canada, Ottawa, Ontario $1,357,104
Coalition ontarienne de formation des adultes, Ottawa, Ontario $358,896
Community Business Development Corporation Restigouche, Campbellton, New Brunswick $573,365
Community Economic Development and Employability Corporation, Montréal, Quebec $173,885
ECO Canada, Calgary, Alberta $1,002,887
Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium of Canada, Owen Sound, Ontario $1,290,026
Government of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick $1,997,173
Government of Quebec, Québec, Quebec $6,400,000
ITANS Information Technology Industry Alliance of Nova Scotia, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia $324,633
Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services, Thunder Bay, Ontario $1,627,070
LearnSphere Canada Inc, Fredericton, New Brunswick $482,286
Louis Riel Institute, Winnipeg, Manitoba $1,030,324
Mining Industry Human Resources Council, Ottawa, Ontario $470,872
NEC Native Education College, Vancouver, British Columbia $305,825
NorQuest College, Edmonton, Alberta $880,251
Nunavut Literacy Council, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut $401,755
Ottawa Chinese Community Centre, Ottawa, Ontario $678,588
PTP Adult Learning and Employment Programs, Toronto, Ontario $374,060
Saint John Learning Exchange, Saint John, New Brunswick $317,172
Skanehionkwaioteh Inc, Ohsweken, Ontario $736,037
Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, Ottawa, Ontario $556,505
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario $238,650
Yellowhead Tribal Development Foundation, Enoch, Alberta $548,466
Young Women’s Christian Association of Canada, Toronto, Ontario $357,426
Payments under $100,000 (5) $267,718







Posted in Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Policy, Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Budget, Federal Government and Literacy, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) | 1 Comment

Mandate Letters Part II – Beyond Employment and Social Development

Literacy is not just about employment. I scanned all of the mandate letters to see if there were any opportunities connected with literacy and essential skills work. Some of these connections are a bit tenuous but might be worth exploring while others relate directly to official language communities, information gathering and skills development.

  • Minister of Families Children and Social Development: responsibility for the poverty reduction strategy and for improvements to Service Canada both of which could have an impact on the literacy field and its clients.
  • Minister of Public Services and Procurement: “Work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to develop a proposal to require that government suppliers participate in the new Canadian Apprenticeship Service, and require that federal construction contracts meet targets for greater inclusion of women in the trades.”
  • Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: “Work with the provinces and territories to ensure a renewed focus on the delivery of high-quality settlement services to ensure the successful settlement and integration of new Canadians. This will require a rigorous approach to data to accurately measure outcomes.” There was no specific mention of additional language training.
  • Minister of Canadian Heritage: “Continue to fully implement the Indigenous Languages Act in order to preserve, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada…”
  • Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth: “Make new investments in research, support and employment projects for visible minority newcomer women, with support from the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.”
  • Minister of National Revenue: “Ensure correspondence and other communications are straightforward and easy to read.” There was however no mention of the changes proposed by a Senate Committee on how not-for-profits and charities are dealt with.
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: “Work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to create national employment and training support services to provide career counselling, job matching and other employment help tailored to the needs of military and policing families.” I wonder if there is an opportunity for literacy programs operating near a military base to support these services.
  • Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry: “…deliver high-speed internet to 100 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses by 2030.” This is critical to delivering online learning across the country.
  • Minister of Middle Class Prosperity: “…better incorporate quality of life measurements into government decision-making and budgeting, drawing on lessons from other jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Scotland.” We’ve argued for some time that literacy results in more than growth in the GDP. This fascinating initiative might just provide an entry for literacy advocates.
  • Minister of Northern Affairs: “Give consideration to the recommendations to come from the Task Force on post-secondary education in Canada’s Arctic and Northern regions…in order to establish a robust system of post-secondary education in the North.” I expect this will be of direct interest to the territorial literacy coalitions.
  • Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: “With support from the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, continue supporting the creation of worker transition centres that will offer skills development initiatives and economic and community diversification activities in Western and Eastern Canada.” This is the first time I’ve heard of worker transition centres – does anyone have information? I’m wondering if these are run by federal agencies such as ACOA and CanNor. This minister also has responsibility for official languages with mentions in the mandate letter to
      • “undertake an enumeration of rights-holders and a thorough post-census survey to better account for and better serve minority language communities”,
      • “develop and promote new opportunities for language and cultural exchanges and invest in building infrastructure that supports strong Official Language minority communities, including schools and cultural centres” and,
      • “complete the launch of “Mauril,” the free, online, easy-to-use tool to help Canadians improve their Official Languages capacity.”
  • Minister of Natural Resources: “Work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and the Minister of Labour and partners to advance legislation to support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon global economy.” This would appear to address some of the issues faced by workers displaced by moving to a cleaner economy.

As you can see, several of these policy objectives require working with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion.

Posted in Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Election 2019, Federal Government and Literacy, Federal Mandate Letters, Francophone literacy, Indigenous People, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES), Official Language Minority Communities, Poverty Reduction Strategy, Senate of Canada, Skills | Leave a comment

What to Expect from the Federal Government

My last post talked about the new minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough. Based on past practice, I expect she will be responsible for the literacy and essential skills file.

To see where a new government might be heading, I look at several sources.


The first is the election platform. As you may be aware, a group of us wrote to all the parties to find out what each would do about the literacy and essential skills file. Unfortunately, we never heard back from the Liberals and the election platform Choose Forward: Building a Strong Middle Class is silent on the topic. Policy promises that might relate to literacy and essential skills from the election platform include implementation of the Canada Training Benefit; guaranteed training for apprentices; a Just Transition Act for those workers transitioning into a clean economy; funds to train workers for energy audits, retrofits and net-zero home construction; training support for family members of the military and RCMP to help with re-location; and skills training for Indigenous Peoples.


The next source of information is the 2019 Speech from the Throne which outlines the government’s agenda. That speech, delivered on December 5th by Governor General Julie Payette, only made a passing reference to the government’s intention to support those going back to school mid-career to learn new skills.


Finally, mandate letters sent by the Prime Minister to each minister outline key policy objectives. These were made public for the first time in 2015 and again in December 2019. You can read all the mandate letters at: 2019 Mandate Letters

The first part of each mandate letter is the same for all ministers and stresses openness, transparency, and engagement of all sectors of society. Federal/provincial relations are central as is evidence-based decisions, the Charter of Rights and incorporating a gender-based analysis.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion

In contrast to the 2015 mandate letter for the same minister, the skills issue is not a major focus for Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion. Minister Qualtrough’s letter focuses on the implementation of the Canada Training Benefit, a new refundable tax credit that allows eligible workers to receive $250 per year towards their training amount limit, up to a lifetime limit of $5,000, to help fund future eligible tuition and fees. She’s also been tasked with creating a Career Insurance Benefits for workers who have worked for the same employer for five or more years and have lost their job as their employer ceases operation. She will also support Statistics Canada in strengthening labour market information. The funds to training workers for energy audits as mentioned in the platform above and the creation of a new Canadian Apprenticeship Service are in the mandate letter.

In my next post, I’ll review the mandate letters for other ministers that might have a bearing on literacy and essential skills.

Posted in Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Policy, Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Government and Literacy, Federal Mandate Letters, Literacy and Essential Skills | Leave a comment

Minister Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion

Wishing everyone a very happy new year. Welcome to the roaring 20’s.

I’ve been remiss in keeping you up to date on some the happenings here in Ottawa. Today’s post deals with the new federal cabinet.

On November 20, 2019, the Prime Minister named his cabinet. The minister most likely to be responsible for the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is the Honourable Carla Qualtrough. She was named Minister Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion. I say most likely as apparently there are changes in how the work is divided up at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and I’ve seen no specific reference to OLES.

First, a bit about Minister Qualtrough. She represents the BC riding of Delta having been first elected in 2015 with over 49% of the vote. She was named Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities until 2017 when she took on the huge job of Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility. She also acted as President of Treasury Board of Canada and Minister of Digital Government for a short while after the resignation of Jane Philpott.

Minister Qualtrough is a former Paralympian. She represented Canada at the Paralympic Games in Seoul (1988), winning a bronze medal in swimming’s 4×100 medley relay, and in Barcelona (1992), where she won two more bronze medals in the 4×100 medley relay and 4×100 freestyle relay. She continued her involvement in the sport including serving as president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee through the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and serving as legal counsel for the 012 Paralympic Summer Games in London.

Trained as a lawyer, she has worked for the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Ottawa, the B.C. Human Rights Commission and she chaired the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, a forum created to improve employment and accessibility for the disabled.

Now, about the structure of ESDC. Four ministers are associated with that department, none of whom is called the “Minister of Employment and Social Development.”

The first is the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen. In the first Trudeau Cabinet, this position was filled by Minister Duclos who was clearly identified as the senior minister to whom the other Ministers would report. In the 2019 version, it appears that Minister Hussen and Minister Qualtrough are peers (and this is how they are shown on the ESDC website) and some have suggested the department is in fact split in two.

In the 2015 Cabinet, the position was called Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. In the current Cabinet, the labour portfolio has its own minister, Filomena Tassi. A fourth minister with responsibilities for Seniors is Deb Schulte.

Within ESDC itself, a Deputy Minister, a Senior Associate Deputy Minister, and an Associate Deputy Minister support all the ministers except for the Minister of Labour who has its own Deputy Minister.

Minister Qualtrough will be supported by a Parliamentary Secretary, Irek Kusmierczyk, from Windsor, Ontario. His background includes three terms on Windsor City Council and as the Director of Partnerships for WEtech Alliance, a non-profit regional innovation centre that helps grow technology companies and jobs and building partnerships with industry, local schools, post-secondary institutions to grow the FIRST Robotics program in the area that prepares young people for careers in STEM and skilled trades.

In my next post, I will review the mandate letters issued by the Prime Minister to understand the priorities for this government that might affect or be of interest to the literacy field.

Posted in Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Government and Literacy, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) | Leave a comment

#VoteCharitably Open Letter | Lettre Ouverte

Charities, non-profits and voluntary organizations have come together with the chair and co-chair of the Senate’s committee on the charitable sector to call upon parties and candidates to address what they term a “slowly intensifying crisis”.

The letter highlights 8 recommendations for the political parties to consider:

  1. Establishing a secretariat to create a home for the sector within the federal government beyond the Canada Revenue Agency;
  2. Updating federal grants and contribution agreements to cover certain overhead and administrative costs, and to replace precarious funding opportunities with long-term commitments; 
  3. Implementing a national volunteerism strategy to recognize this country’s dedicated volunteers and encourage more Canadians to contribute to the betterment of their communities;
  4. Initiating a human resources renewal plan to promote decent work and pensions for workers in the sector;
  5. Investing in more Statistics Canada programs that collect and analyze data on the sector, as well as the regular and predictable deployment of the General Social Survey and the Satellite Account of Non-Profit Institutions and Volunteering;
  6. Moving the appeals of Canada Revenue Agency decisions on the rejection and suspension of charitable status from the Federal Court of Appeals to the Tax Court of Canada;
  7. Examining ways to increase capital and revenue streams for the sector and strengthening and growing Canada’s donor base; and
  8. Working with the sector to modernize Canada’s charity laws and regulations, including through the CRA’s Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector.

You can read the letter here: VoteCharitably Open Letter

The Senate committee released a report in June, Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector. While focused on the charitable sector, the report makes 42 recommendations many of which affect the non-profit sector as well. For example, the report calls for a minimum of two years for federal funding and application and reporting requirements commensurate with the level of funding. The report is worth a read: Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector


Posted in Federal Election 2019, Senate of Canada | Leave a comment

What to ask in this election

A national network of organizations, people and researchers concerned about adult literacy in Canada has prepared a list of questions for all 21 political parties involved in the federal election. The responses will be shared later in the campaign.

Here are the questions – please feel free to use them with local candidates:

  1. What is your party’s position on establishing a national adult literacy policy?
  2. How will your party support collaboration and coordination across government and stakeholders to best support our population’s potential?
  3. How will your party integrate literacy and essential skills development into sectoral policies in areas like employment, health, the environment, settlement, culture, the promotion of the Official Languages, and work with Indigenous peoples?
  4. How is your party prepared to commit to federal funding for literacy?
  5. How will your party address the particular literacy needs of Indigenous peoples, people living in official language minority communities, and newcomers to Canada? 
  6. What is your party’s plan with respect to implementing Canada’s commitments to UNESCO and on the international stage in the fields of literacy and adult education?
  7. How will your party convene conversations about lifelong learning for adults experiencing challenges because of lower literacy skills?
  8. How will you address the fundamental learning needs of those adults who are unable to transition to jobs in the new economy because of lower literacy skills?

The questions and the documents that accompany these questions can be found here:

They are also at

Posted in Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Policy, Essential Skills, Federal Election 2019, Federal Government and Literacy, Literacy and Essential Skills | 3 Comments

Future Skills Council – Summary of Preliminary Engagement

The Future Skills Council, not to be confused with the Future Skills Centre, recently released a summary report of its consultations with stakeholders (Future Skills Council Summary of Preliminary Engagement). The Council, you may recall, was appointed by Minister Patty Hajdu to develop a strategic plan on priorities related to emerging and in-demand skills. Its members come from all sectors (see Future Skills Council membership announced).

The Council heard from almost 400 individuals from over 150 organizations. Much of what it heard is not new – lack of high quality, timely labour market information, structural barriers and skills shortages.

However, I was impressed that number 3 on its list of 7 challenges/opportunities was Essential Skills.

Too often essential skills and literacy are submerged under a call for skills development and not dealt with separately. The report notes that essential skills need to be incorporated into “all facets of skills development policies and programming,” acknowledging the challenges and vulnerability faced by those with low skill levels.

The report also references the need to review these skills in today’s context. This is currently the focus of an Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) effort to modernize the Essential Skills Framework. That effort is led by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) with an advisory group made up of people involved in creating, using and promoting Essential Skills.

The Future Skills Council report lists seven opportunities and challenges:

  1. Lack of sufficient high quality, relevant, timely, and accessible labour market information
  2. Structural barriers and skills shortages
  3. Essential skills
  4. Need for lifelong learning
  5. New and emerging models of learning and training
  6. Employer involvement in skills development
  7. Support individuals and groups at higher risk of the negative affects of disruptive change.

Next up for the Council is the strategic plan which it will release in winter 2020.

I’m still not clear how the Future Skills Council and the Future Skills Centre relate to one another.

The Future Skills Centre issued a $36 million call for proposals in August to address one of three questions:

  • How can we best support Canadians facing labour market disruption to transition to new jobs or industries?
  • How can employers be more effectively engaged in developing and delivering demand-driven solutions to skills gap challenges?
  • How can skills development systems be optimized, building up the capacity of service providers and encouraging collaboration between organizations?

In July, 10 projects with $7.65M were announced from the first call for proposals on the topic Support for Mid-Career Workers (

So far, none of the 10 projects or the call for proposals has specifically mentioned essential skills or literacy. One of the Inaugural innovation projects announced last spring focuses on “essential employability skills training for Indigenous and Northern youth.” I hope that future projects address the issues faced by adults with low literacy and essential skills.

I’ll be watching to see if and how the findings of the Council influence the work of the Centre.


Posted in Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Government and Literacy, Future Skills Centre, Future Skills Council, Labour Market Information, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES), Skills | 2 Comments