Canada’s cut to foreign aid biggest of any country in 2013 (Two articles)

Baird and Harper - PMO photo.jpg

Canada made the biggest monetary cut to foreign aid of any country in 2013, marking a four-year national low, an international report pointed out this week. 

By Catherine Porter, Toronto Star, Oct 7 2014 

Canada made the biggest monetary cut to foreign aid of any country in 2013, marking a four-year national low, an international report pointed out this week. The trend is “particularly concerning” given Canada’s record as a “strong aid champion” in the past, says the One Campaign’s 2014 Data Report. 

“We’ve been a bit disappointed,” said Tom Hart, the North American executive director of the One Campaign, an organization co-founded by singer Bono 10 years ago to advocate for ending extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. “Canada is one of a handful of countries this year that has seen a decrease.” 

Internationally, spending on development reached a new high in 2013 — $134.8 billion — according to a second report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) this week. It pegged Canada’s cut at 11.4 per cent — the second biggest proportional cut after Portugal, which was responding to the conditions of an economic bailout package. 

The reports did not surprise Canadian aid workers, who have braced for bad news since the federal government announced a plan to cut $380 million in 2012. But it did come as Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called on Canadians to join the fight against terrorists in Iraq. “My Canada protects the vulnerable,” he said in the House of Commons this week. “My Canada does not leave all the heavy lifting to others.” 

“We have a moral imperative for bombing, but not so much for helping the poor,” said Stephen Brown, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa and editor of Struggling for Effectiveness: CIDA and Canadian Foreign Aid. 

Julia Sanchez, the president of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, said Canada’s recent record puts the country in a weak position next year, when the world’s countries gather to set the global development goals for the next 15 years. 

“If we don’t do our bit as a donor country, it’s very hard to have any sway,” she said. 

There was a silver lining. The One Campaign report did commend Canada for focusing 43 per cent of the aid money it does spend on sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to one-third of the world’s “extreme poor.” And an OECD senior policy analyst said Canada’s aid has become more focused and transparent since 2012, when it was last reviewed. 

“Canada’s performance as a donor is good in many respects,” said Rahul Molhotra. 

He, too, urged the country to boost its aid commitment to reach the global donor target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI). That was set in 1969 by a United Nations expert commission headed by Lester B. Pearson. Despite its Canadian impetus, we have never reached that benchmark. In 2013, Canada’s aid spending sunk to 0.27 of GNI — below the international average of .29, according to the One Report, which does not include debt relief in its calculations. 

Britain reached the 0.7 goal for first time in 2013 when it poured an additional $3.95 billion into aid. It joins Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway. 

Responding last May to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s urging that Canada reach the 0.7 target, Prime Minister Harper responded: “It’s the philosophy of our government and, I believe, of Canadians more broadly that we do not measure things in terms of the amount of money we spend, but in terms of the results we achieve.”

Tory plan is patriotism, fear and six CF-18s: Tim Harper

Members of the Canadian House of Commons voted 157 to 134 to support sending Canadian forces to combat Islamic State in Iraq. 

By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, Oct 7 2014

OTTAWA—The vote in support of Stephen Harper’s decision to join allied air strikes in northern Iraq — and possibly Syria — was never in doubt. But Conservatives imported two distinctly American arguments in selling their plan to a divided House of Commons. In essence, they sold patriotism and fear.

The patriotic argument was a variation on the first theme, that in Stephen Harper’s Canada, this country takes no free rides. It was sometimes wrapped in other phrases. When allies call, we respond. It is the Canadian way. We don’t let others do the heavy lifting for us. We do not sit on the sidelines.

“If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world — and we should since so many of our challenges are global,’’ says Harper, “being a free rider means you are not taken seriously.’’

“My Canada heeds the call,’’ said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. “My Canada protects the vulnerable. My Canada does not leave all the heavy lifting to others.’’

While Conservatives have anted up aid money, what Harper and Baird are really saying is global leadership means bombs and those who oppose this — most notably the Liberals — will let others fight our fight. They are less patriotic.

It is an effective argument, coming from the leader of the country, a man who has been sitting at summit tables for eight years. It is an argument that likely will be heard again in six months when this campaign is extended, as well as next year on the election trail. It is effective now, when support is high and voters frame this issue as us standing up to the bad guys, before the support invariably wanes over time. But it is hardly an infallible argument.

Not all allies have decided that international cachet means flying combat jets. Many are contributing humanitarian aid, an option often derided by Harper’s Conservatives as sending over some blankets. Germany’s Angela Merkel is one who has chosen blankets over bombs and no one is suggesting that Germany’s global voice will be diminished.

Go to war or be a free rider? “That is small thinking, facile, divisive and unworthy,’’ said Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray.

When called upon to act, said Justice Minister Peter MacKay, we respond. But surely, when called upon, we decide what to do based on our needs and capabilities. We don’t just respond and that response need not be — and has not been — military in nature.

This is a government, however, that picks its spots when it comes to heavy lifting and the bottom line is usually economic. 

They have clearly taken a free ride on the global threat that is posed by climate change. In all but confirming this government will not meet its Copenhagen Accord target, Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand moved it into the international context. “It’s very difficult for us in Canada to expect other countries to meet their commitments when Canada can’t meet its own,’’ she said.

Conservatives, from Harper on down, have also spoken of the direct threat that the Islamic State poses to Canada.

The threat is never specified. We do not know whether the government is speaking of training bases from which radicalized Canadians could return home to launch lone wolf attacks, or whether they are talking of some type of Al Qaeda-style attack on this country, or the vague mention of this country in an audio by an ISIS leader.

Canada’s security services say there are at least 30 Canadians who have joined ISIS, although the number is thought to be much higher. Public Safety also says it is aware of about 80 Canadians who have returned after having travelled for “terrorism-related purposes.’’

But Canada has faced a terror threat since Sept. 11, 2001, a threat that spiked as our profile in Afghanistan grew. The government has so far been vague on how this threat is worse now, but if it is home-grown terrorism and radicalized Canadians, the emphasis should be on measures at home and at our borders, not in a bombing campaign meant to contain the threat.

But by talking about the threat, the Conservatives are reminiscent of the former George W. Bush administration that kept Americans on tenterhooks by changing the colour of the terrorist threat in the wake of 9/11 without providing specifics.

A majority always ensured passage of Tuesday’s war motion. But two days of debate have given us the Tory message going forward, when we will hear a lot more about threats to the homeland and free riders in the opposition.