Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 2, 2005
Foreign aid cuts get a drubbing
Liberals target key countries for Canada's aid dollars, projects
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The foreign aid community and opposition parties greeted the long-awaited Liberal government International Policy Statement (IPS) with disappointment when four cabinet ministers released the document April 19.
On a CBC radio panel April 19, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Alexa McDonough described as "revolting" the government's turning its backs on promises to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals of 0.7 per cent of GDP into the foreign aid.
At an April 19 news conference following the IPS release, Conservative International Cooperation Critic Ted Menzies pointed out the Liberal government has slashed $9 billion from foreign aid since 1993.
Menzies said Canada spends a "paltry" 0.23 per cent on foreign aid, noting that the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney in 1993 were contributing 0.5 per cent.
If the government had continued building from that level, Canada would be well on its way to reading the MDG target of 0.7 per cent, Menzies said.
Noting that the prime minister has said the goals are unattainable, Menzies told the news conference he thinks they can be reached with some "thinking outside the box."
Richard Renshaw, the deputy executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, said that disappointment was an understatement of his reaction to the long-awaited document.
"It's not going to make a huge difference," Renshaw said in an April 20 telephone interview from Montreal. "There's nothing new. Nothing changed on all the points we were interested in."
Renshaw criticized the emphasis on "developing the private sector side of trade" because it would not make a significant difference to the poor.
In an April 21 Globe and Mail op ed, Make Poverty History co-chair Gerry Barr, who is president and CEO of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, wrote: "Meeting our international commitments, especially on international assistance, should have been the starting point for the government's redefining of our global role."
Barr pointed out that all three opposition party leaders had signed a letter to the prime minister agreeing that aid spending be guided by the principle of poverty reduction. "The Liberals are now the only party who have yet to support it," Barr wrote.
The IPS attempts to integrate foreign affairs, defence, trade and international development.
"We will do more of what we're good at," said Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, who talked about strengthening Canada's relationship with the United States, enhancing domestic security and recognizing the threat posed by failed and failing states.
International Cooperation Minister Aileen Carroll said the fight against global poverty would focus on "key countries where aid can make the most difference."
Carroll said Canada's military will also be enhanced so it will be better equipped to help out in human disasters at home or overseas. In fact, the bulk of the spending will go toward modernizing the military.
Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic Stockwell Day criticized the pursuit of trade without considering the human rights records of countries like China.
While Carroll said the Liberals were still committed to the 0.7 per cent target for foreign aid, she said that from a CIDA perspective "it is not just about dollars, it's about our focus."
The fact that Haiti, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan are not on the list of 25 targetted for Canadian aid also prompted criticism.
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