1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 149

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Acting Speaker

International Cooperation

Canadian International Development Agency—Foreign Aid

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: As honourable senators know, Minister Flaherty announced last Thursday that the Canadian International Development Agency will be integrated into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This decision represents an important opportunity to critically evaluate Canada’s policy on development.

In a December 2012 interview, Minister Fantino said that Canada’s investments through our international development agency should “promote Canadian values, Canadian business, the Canadian economy, benefits for Canada.” Professor Roland Paris has said that “creating conditions for sustainable, market-driven growth in developing societies seems to be the single best remedy for poverty.”

However, aid partnerships with the private sector should be about helping people in countries in desperate need, not about increasing Canadian profits. Neither Canada’s international credibility nor the billions of people living in poverty are well served if Canada’s development policy is geared first toward advancing Canadian commercial interests.

My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is this: Will our development spending prioritize the reduction of poverty or the promotion of Canadian commercial interests?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, we have made Canada’s aid more effective and will continue to do so. We are enshrining in law the important roles and responsibilities of the minister for international development and humanitarian assistance. This change will enhance coordination of international assistance with broader Canadian values and objectives and will put development on an equal footing with trade and diplomacy.

As was pointed out by several officials I saw over the weekend, much of the Canadian aid is now going into countries where Canada is also putting in significant development dollars. Canada’s international assistance budget will be maintained. The new department of foreign affairs, trade and development will maintain the mandate of poverty alleviation and humanitarian support. The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy was quoted in The Globe and Mail a couple of days ago saying, “I compliment the government on taking this step.”

Honourable senators, going forward, things will happen within Canada’s countries of focus. In the past, we have given over 2 million people access to education, vaccinated more than 9 million against polio and fed over 18 million people. We have untied 100 per cent of food aid, and our food security strategy is getting results. For example, in Ethiopia, we have helped about 7.8 million people with food and assistance, and we have also invested significantly in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Senator Jaffer: Professor Paris pointed out in his commentary that development assistance requires long-term commitments to projects and countries. Many Canadian governments, including the current government, have reinvented Canada’s long-term development priorities every few years. This is an urgent political problem.

For example, in 2009, the government announced it would concentrate spending on 20 countries of focus. Five of the six countries whose bilateral budgets have been reduced by the government are among those 20 countries named in 2009.

Security problems and accountability issues, according to media reports, make certain countries “less attractive for direct support.” Canada’s development policy should not be about identifying attractive countries or advancing flavour-of-the-month policy priorities. Development does not happen over the course of one or two election cycles; sometimes it takes decades.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate address how the government plans to ensure greater stability and consistency in Canada’s aid policy?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I think the record speaks for itself. The government absolutely has taken a more focused approach to aid — with great results. Again, I emphasize with regard to CIDA that this change will enhance coordination of international assistance with broader Canadian values and objectives and will put development on an equal footing with trade and diplomacy. As was pointed out, we are also working to develop many of the countries we are aiding so that they are in a better position to move forward. This move will simply better coordinate within the Department of Foreign Affairs the very significant efforts Canada is making on the humanitarian aid front.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I have another question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Government of Canada still committed to the eradication of poverty, or will commercial interests come first?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I pointed out, the government has a very balanced approach. We absolutely have a stellar record — and I put some of it on the record — of supporting those countries toward eradicating poverty. Our maternity and child health programs have been second to none. We have expended a great deal of effort and money in the eradication of polio. Our work dealing with the AIDS epidemic is also an effort that the government will continue to promote and support, including the eradication of poverty.