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Catherine O'Bryan

Literacy programs can operate efficiently without government trying to cut red tape

Why is the federal government obsessed with the direct control of disbursing taxpayers’ money? When Ottawa starts messing around with literacy grants and changes the rules, thus jeopardizing essential programs, then that’s taking things much too far.

The P.E.I. Literacy Alliance will soon shut down because the federal government has cut $150,000 in core funding. Without this core funding, the alliance will only be able to operate for another six to nine more months.

Improved literacy skills open so many doors, especially for adult learners and now these people will be shut out. Catherine O’Bryan, the literacy alliance’s executive director, said the federal money was core funding used to keep the literacy alliance running.

The literacy alliance couldn’t operate through donations alone because fundraising would be too time-consuming. Core funding allows the alliance time to raise money for these programs. Fundraising efforts this year are paying for 26 tutors involved in the literacy alliance’s summer program and the organization is giving out 10 bursaries worth $750, along with three scholarships worth $1,500.

The alliance, on the local level, decides on funding, grants and determines needs. It also promotes literacy and gives out books through a book bank and two book fridges. Now there will be no one advocating for literacy in P.E.I., no more scholarships and no summer tutoring program. With 48 per cent of Islanders struggling with literacy issues, there is an urgent need to maintain the alliance.

What is Ottawa’s new plan? It wants each literacy group to approach it directly. It would apparently rather deal with 30 voices lobbying for money on P.E.I. rather than one alliance. The feds advocate cutting through bureaucracy and red tape by directly funding programs. But how many of these individuals or groups in need are able to find the time or have the ability to fill in the forms to get funding? In effect, most literacy programs will come to an end on P.E.I.

It was unfair of the federal government to change the rules at this late stage. It all seems like an incredibly inefficient solution for a government that preaches efficiency. With this obsession to cut red tape and bureaucracy, it has severely limited the ability of Islanders to access literacy funding.

It seems that if the feds can’t take direct credit, then no one will. And how does this help anyone?

Programs prove worth

Some government programs deserve criticism. The 2014 P.E.I. Home Renovation Programs are certainly not among them. In fact, they are among the best ideas this or any government have devised. The programs assist eligible low income Islanders, families, persons with disabilities and persons with special needs with the cost of necessary repairs to their homes. The programs allow these Islanders to remain in their homes with some comfort and security, instead of being forced to seek shelter in seniors’ residences, nursing homes, assisted care or long-term care facilities.

The program will be accepting applications for funding from June 16 to June 20. To ensure fairness to all applicants, only applications received after 8 a.m. on June 16, and applications that have all the required documentation will be processed. Approval will be based on the eligibility criteria which identifies the home repair need and then on a first-come, first-served basis until the program budget is exhausted. A large amount of each eligible loan can be forgiven.

The programs have proven very popular with overwhelming response when first introduced in the fall of 2013. Islanders are advised to not wait, because the deadline is fast approaching.

Organizations: P.E.I. Literacy Alliance, 2014 P.E.I. Home Renovation Programs

Geographic location: Ottawa

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