The federal government has decided to cut funding to the Canadian Council on Learning, an independent organization that promotes and produces reports on lifelong education practices across Canada.

Last month, CCL received a letter from Human Resources and Social Development stating that the government would stop funding the organization once the current agreement ends on March 31. “I can assure you that the decision not to renew was not made lightly,” writes Human Resources Minister Diane Finley. No explanation was given in the minister’s letter.

Created in 2004 by the previous Liberal government, CCL received an $85-million grant to operate for five years. In 2009, CCL’s mandate was extended to March 2010, with no more funding promised beyond then. The federal funding accounts for 95 per cent of the total funding received by the council.

CCL released a statement on Jan. 8 quoting Paul Cappon, its president and CEO, as saying “CCL has achieved a lot in its short life, but there is so much more to accomplish. We will do everything we can to continue our work in some form or another because that work contributes to Canada’s prosperity.”

CCL reports regularly to Canadians on progress in education, and suggests areas that need attention. It also helps promote lifelong education across the country. The OECD recently praised the Prime Minister for supporting CCL, also lauding the Composite Learning Index, a groundbreaking CCL program that is now being adapted for use in Europe.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said the Conservatives should invest more, not less, in education at a critical time in Canada’s economic recovery. “Making this kind of cut at this time is ridiculously short-sighted. This government is putting our country’s future at risk.”

“The funding of independent research on post-secondary education has been invaluable to the progress of education in Canada,” said Arati Sharma, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. “Cutting our ability to effectively evaluate post-secondary education programs will drastically affect Canada’s ability to measure the progress of higher learning.”

“There is a need for a more comprehensive learning information system.” Ryan Sparrow, Finley’s communications director, told CanWest News Service. “This will help us maximize training investments, help Canadians make more informed decisions when it comes to their education and their careers, and ensure employers have the workers with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Cappon would disagree. “We are the only organization that reports independently and reliably and impartially to people right across this country on the strengths and weaknesses in learning. If CCL doesn’t do it, who will?”