Troubling news from Victoria

Several of our local faculty associations have received word that funding for Regional Literacy Coordinators is "under review" by the provincial government. This news comes on the heels of the July 9 update by the Minister of Finance, Colin Hansen showing a significantly revised budget picture from the one that the BC Liberals campaigned on in May.

Faculty associations are being warned that the funding for Literacy Coordinators may be at risk. The word from Victoria is that the government is preparing to jettison valuable public programs and services as a way to cover up what now appears to be an obviously bogus budget that was presented to voters two months ago. The Province newspaper headline summed it up quite well when it described the latest fiscal update as "fudge-it-budget 2.0".

The political maneuvering that Finance Minister Hansen has displayed so far offers cold comfort to voters. Despite lots of evidence that BC's economy was in trouble starting as early as 2008, Mr. Hansen-no doubt under careful guidance from the Premier's Office-trotted out a "don't worry, be happy" message when he tabled his budget in February. When challenged during the campaign on what the impact of a slowing economy would be on his forecast surplus, he remained steadfast that all was well.

Now we find out that all is not well. Even BC's Auditor General views the razor thin surplus as more of an accounting phenomenon than an indication of sound fiscal management. More worrisome, however, is how the provincial government deals with programs and services in the current fiscal year. Our concern at this point is that Literacy Coordinators are going to be the first of many programs on the chopping block.

Post-secondary funding levels are already under intense pressure. In March 2008, the Minster of Advanced Education announced a unilateral cut of 2.6 per cent in post-secondary operating grants. The February 2009 budget did nothing to even restore that funding. These cuts were made despite the fact that one of the best ways to deal with an economic slowdown is to invest in the skills and knowledge that will ensure sustainable growth in the future.

Literacy programs and the coordinators who make them work are an essential part of that investment strategy. These programs open the doors to adult learners who are interested in upgrading their skills and expanding their career options. Cutting those programs will slam that door shut.

Over the coming weeks our Federation will be making the case to government that post-secondary education needs to be a priority. Politically expedient budget maneuvering is not the way to manage BC's future. Government MLA's need to get that message loud and clear.


About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.