Recently, I sat down with a group of people from across the constituency who are responsible for providing local literacy services through an organization called Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL). Whenever I meet with local service providers, I am impressed with their level of expertise and their incredible commitment to their work.
As a former educator, I believe that one of the most important things we can do is ensure that we have a fully literate population. And, not that many years ago, the BC Liberal government claimed that it had a plan to make British Columbia the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent.
Following the declaration that literacy was a top government priority, $2.5 million of provincial funding was allocated yearly to community literacy programs, and a portion of this money is what CBAL depends on to fund the services it provides. And the list of CBAL’s services, developed using their small portion, is long and varied; services that our communities really can’t afford to live without. If anything, these local programs need more funding, not less.
But the BC Liberal government’s commitment to literacy has been short-lived. The allocation for government funding of community literacy programs province-wide this year has dropped to only $1 million, which will drastically impact the efforts of literacy coordinators and their programs across the province.
In the big scheme of things, $1.5 million is a very small amount, and this cut to literacy funding does very little to address provincial budget shortfalls. But it makes a big difference in our communities. With this loss of funding, we are increasing the risk that our citizens will not reach the literacy standards that they need to succeed, a situation that has societal costs that are much higher than the $1.5 million we will save this year.
Governing is about making tough choices, and we know that there isn’t money for everything. But promoting literacy has to be a priority, not just at a BC Liberal photo-op, but each year when we ensure organizations like CBAL have the funding they need.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 1-866-870-4188.