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Conservatives cut funding for education thinktank

The Canadian Council on Learning, an independent research organization created by the federal Liberals in 2004, is about to lose 95% of its funding.

In a message posted on the CCL website, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Paul Cappon wrote:

As you may have heard, the Government of Canada has decided to end its funding of CCL. Our present agreement will expire on March 31.

This will necessitate a dramatic scaling down at CCL. However, we are determined to fulfil our current commitments, and identify new ways to serve Canadians, albeit with more modest means.

I believe that it is important to maintain the momentum generated by CCL and, over the next few weeks, we will be considering how best to continue.

Dr. Cappon cited a number of achievements by CCL, including the Composite Learning Index:

Our Composite Learning Index, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, measures learning conditions, not only in the country as a whole, but in almost 5,000 individual communities. It shows that when you make learning conditions better, you inevitably make economic and social standards better. Europeans have told us they have been “inspired” by the Index, and are now working to produce a version for themselves.

The CCL's Composite Learning Index for Canada in 2009 was 75, a drop of two points from 2008. The big city with the best conditions for education was Calgary, with a CLI of 89, followed by Victoria with 88.

Reports in The Globe and Mail and The Star have noted the termination of funding, which was decided by federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

On the Liberal Party website, Michael Ignatieff condemned the defunding of CCL:

“The CCL was created because Canadians were falling behind the rest of the world in areas critical to maintain a competitive edge – innovation, creativity, skills development and basic learning,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “We saw we had some serious catching up to do, and the CCL was making some great strides in this regard.

“Making this kind of cut at this time is ridiculously short-sighted. This government is putting our country’s future prosperity at risk,” he said.

The federal New Democrats did not appear to have a response to the defunding on their website. Nor did the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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