Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 95

Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Cooperation

Development Assistance Levels

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am very much aware that we in Canada are facing many economic challenges, but at this time I believe we also have to look at the most unfortunate and needy in the world.

In 1969, the Pearson commission proposed a now universally acknowledged target for official development aid. It was 0.7 per cent of the donor’s gross national income. Canada was recognized as an international leader. The world is calling for Canadian leadership once again. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported on Tuesday that Canada’s aid has fallen by over 5 per cent between 2010 and 2011 to just 0.31 per cent of our gross national income.

Canada is not alone. Nearly all developed countries trumpeted the 0.7 target, but only five have met the goal. The OECD report tells us that given Canada’s economic outlook, there would appear to be potential for increasing aid volume.

Canada has a history of international leadership on this file. It is uniquely placed to lead by example. Canadian leadership is about demonstrating the humility and fortitude to declare we must do better.

Would the minister please share with us Canada’s plans for the coming years and for raising our development assistance to 0.7 per cent of gross national income?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the senator for the question. Our government, of course, has received the OECD report. We will seriously consider the findings and the recommendations in that report.

However, I must point out that since our government took office in 2006 we committed to making Canada’s international aid assistance more effective, more focused and more accountable. The OECD even acknowledged that our efforts are more concentrated.

While there will always be areas, honourable senators, for improvement, the peer review confirmed that Canada’s progress to untie aid and focus its efforts by country and themes is achieving important and meaningful results. We were very pleased to see that acknowledgment by the OECD.

For example, the report commends Canada for the promise it has made to untie all of its aid by 2013 and for the progress it is making towards that aim, particularly for entirely untying its food aid.


Honourable senators, I have already put on record many times in this place — and Senator Jaffer has acknowledged this — that significant funds have been expended by the government under the maternal and child health envelope to countries like Bangladesh, Mozambique, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Malawi.

These focused, targeted resources have had real impact in addressing many of the concerns when compared to a scattergun approach that really did not achieve many good results at all.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I agree with the leader. She knows that on many occasions I have come back from working in different areas and acknowledged Prime Minister Harper and his government’s leadership, especially on maternal health. However, no one here will be surprised by the fact I want us to do more.

Therefore, I would ask the leader a supplementary question. The first premise is courtesy of the OECD. Given Canada’s outlook, there is a potential to increase aid volume to 0.7 per cent of the gross national income. The second premise: Canada is committed to meeting its goals and to helping to eradicate global poverty. The logical conclusion is that Canada will increase aid to 0.7 per cent of the gross national income. This is what the OECD is saying. To reject these premises and the logical conclusion that follows from them would be to suggest that Canada’s economic outlook or commitment to development aid does not match those of countries such as Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands — countries that have met the goal.

May I ask the leader what percentage and what point we will aim for in the next budget year?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the senator for the question. I think I addressed that in the first part of my answer. The government will seriously consider the findings and recommendations of the OECD review. Any recommendations they made will be taken into consideration by the government.

Again, though, I point out that the OECD has complimented Canada on directing our aid on fewer thematic and geographical priorities. I and the government appreciate the comments of the OECD in this regard.

Having said that, I wish to point out that the government welcomes the report from the OECD and will seriously consider all of its findings and recommendations.