Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 3, 2001
Be wary of Liberals bearing gifts
Federal Liberals and their technocrats descended upon us during the last week of August, bearing gifts intended to bolster their presence in this provincial outpost.
Of particular interest to me was the promised opening of a regional CIDA office to be announced by Maria Minna, minister of international cooperation.
In the 1980s the Alberta non-governmental community had lobbied hard for such an office to serve small NGOs outside of the golden triangle of Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
Subsequently, the CIDA branch office, operating out of Camrose, served us well. Bureaucracy was kept to a minimum and one could meet with the representatives face to face and settle any points of contention.
Small NGOs are volunteer and donor driven and don't have the financial or human resources to fly back and forth to Hull where CIDA is headquartered. In 1995, as part of the general budget slashing, the Camrose office was closed.
I was surprised therefore, to receive an invitation to attend the announcement of the opening of a regional office in Edmonton.
And with cautious, but hopeful anticipation, I attended the Aug. 21 all-day session at the Macdonald Hotel and sat through slide presentations of graphs and diagrams illustrating the ways by which Canada intends to help alleviate world poverty.
It soon became clear that the new regional office would focus on enhancing Alberta participation in the industrial cooperation program (CIDA-INC) "to promote economic and social development of the host countries, to enhance the quality of Canadian investments and reduce the risks; to promote long-term business partnerships between Canadian and private sectors in developing countries; and to assist Canadian firms to increase infrastructures in the developing countries."
I should have known better. In 1995, the ministry of foreign affairs and international trade published its policy directions in Canada in the World.
These include a commitment to "deepen and broaden NAFTA, strengthen APEC, encourage the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and support the prompt and dynamic launch of the World Trade Organization."
All these things have come to pass - pepper spray, tear gas, three metre fences, rubber bullets and all.
Canada is in the forefront to push trade liberalization and has great faith in such international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the G8 and the General Agreement on Trade in Services to change the world economy in favour of corporate interests and thereby create prosperity that magically would benefit all.
"We will work with the private sector, the provinces and other government bodies," the policy outline states, "to identify and assist 'export ready' companies, and to provide timely, opportunity specific market intelligence on sectors and markets that offer the greatest growth potential, including service sectors."
That pretty much sums up why a regional CIDA office is opened in Alberta - to entice providers of goods and services to take advantage of opportunities in the developing world. In the meantime, the gap between rich and poor has been widening.
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