Federal government holds steady with literacy funding

Last week on April 16th, the federal government tabled its Main Estimates outlining its spending plan for 2018 – 2019.

Planned spending for grants and contributions to not-for-profit, for-profit, and aboriginal organizations, municipal, provincial and territorial governments for adult learning, literacy and essential skills remained the same as in the previous year. The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) will have $14,800,000 in grants and $3,209,000 in contributions for a total of $18,009,000 in fiscal year 2018 – 2019. This has been the same annual budget since 2016-2017. As I have written before, OLES spends well under half of this money each year.

With the tabling of the Main Estimates are two reports specific to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) – the 2016 – 2017 Department Results Report and the 2018 – 2019 Departmental Plan.

Literacy and essential skills activities for adult is mentioned once in the 2016-17 Results Report in a section discussing innovation.

The effectiveness of approaches to workplace literacy and essential skills training was also tested. Some 1,454 workers were contacted through the project, and literacy training was provided to 727 low-skilled Canadians in 88 companies across eight provinces. The result was improved literacy scores, superior job performance and job retention, and increased health and safety for workers as well as positive benefits for participating employers in terms of customer satisfaction, productivity gains and increased revenues.[1]

There is no mention of which organization(s) led this project.

Youth directed literacy and essential skills activities are cited as part of the Youth Employment Strategy (YES). During 2016-17, ESDC focused on:

  • supporting young Canadians in improving their essential skills by funding projects, through YES, that are testing the effectiveness of innovative approaches;

  • continuing to work horizontally to integrate essential skills into federal, provincial and territorial labour market programming such as YES so that Canadians can benefit from an increased access to essential skills training. [2]

Again, no specific information about the nature of these projects are provided.

Unfortunately, no mention of literacy and essential skills is made in the 2018 – 2019 ESDC Department Plan other than to indicate that activities are funded.

Once again, we see the federal government shying away from any role in promoting or leading on adult literacy and essential skills policy and/or programming. I had expected that the Liberal government would have, by this point in its mandate, reversed the disastrous decisions of the previous government and restored federal leadership on this file.

Is it really too much to ask the federal government to make adult literacy a priority?

[1] Employment and Social Development Canada. 2016-17 Departmental Results Report. Page 69.

[2] Ibid. Page 38.

About Brigid Hayes

Brigid Hayes has developed an expertise in learning that spans over 30 years as a senior government policy advisor and program manager and partnership developer; director of labour for a national business/labour skills centre and as an independent consultant. Her knowledge of and experience in workplace literacy and learning has contributed to her recognition as an expert in this field, and she has undertaken significant activities to both help promote and enhance literacy and lifelong learning. Brigid works as an independent consultant and expert advisor on learning, literacy, and work. She has successfully developed a strategic planning and policy development practice involving workplace literacy, essential skills, partnership development, research, and evaluation.
This entry was posted in Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Policy, Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Federal Budget, Federal Government and Literacy, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES). Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Federal government holds steady with literacy funding

  1. Karen Willy says:

    Thank you for this summary, Brigid. As an adult literacy profession, I find it very disheartening that the Liberal Government has not reinstated funding to the regional literacy councils.


  2. Brigid Hayes says:

    Karen, thank you for your comment. The federal government continues to leave the funding of these regional groups to the provinces and territories.


  3. Thank you so much for this Brigid. When there is such a tremendous opportunity to improve the economic and social wealth as well as the well being of Canadians through LES upgrading, and lifelong learning, I continue to be astonished at the lack of uptake among governments. Undaunted, I continue to push ahead with those who are interested in how this affects people in the world pf employment: the skilled trades, manufacturers, construction sector, and those providing digital services. Momentum is building. One way or another we will bring the attention this opportunity deserves into the fore. Your ongoing leadership is much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

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