Canada’s most inept international aid minister ever, Julian Fantino, published two extraordinary partisan screeds on his agency’s website recently which have caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the news. As a result, they’ve been pulled from the government’s website. Nice try, Mr. Fantino. Documents don’t die easily on the Web. For the sake of my readers and your constituents, I’ve re-published the letters below.
Just so we’re clear, using taxpayer-funded government department websites for partisan purposes isn’t just unethical, it’s against the rules. It’s an explicitly prohibited misuse of taxpayer resources. This is an official policy statement from a government department; as a result, it is not permitted to include partisan affairs of any sort.
The current news from the government is that the letters were “posted in error.” It’s hard to imagine how that could be the case. As you can see by comparing the texts below with versions that were published in more appropriate non-taxpayer-financed forums, namely the National Post and the Huffington Post, someone specifically went in and edited the versions that went up on CIDA’s website to add extra links. Someone also formatted the text, sent it to the webmaster’s office, and authorized its publication.
Things like this don’t happen by “accident” in government. There’s probably even a paper trail, like there was for Jason Kenney’s fake citizenship ceremony last year. Even at Sixth Estate, sometimes I regret things I publish, but I certainly don’t just “accidentally” write, edit, and publish entire columns.
Here’s the first one, written to the NDP. Notice that in the final paragraph Julian Fantino singles out Canada’s aid program in Haiti as a particularly successful one, worthy of attention. A few days ago, Fantino announced that he was not satisfied with the Haiti program and that Canada should eliminate its aid to that country. How you want to square these remarks is up to you.
December 21, 2012
NDP take their reckless economic sideshow to the developing world
I read NDP MP Helen Laverdière’s piece in the Huffington Post with great interest. I find it ironic that the NDP, a party that wishes to impose a $21-billion carbon tax on Canadians and more than $50-billion in radical spending measures while we face global economic uncertainty, now wants to give advice to developing countries on their economic development. Let me take this opportunity to enlighten the MP and the NDP about the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and dispel their myths.
Our Conservative government is focused on delivering tangible results for those most in need around the world. As I stated in my speech to the Economic Club of Canada: This means using any and all legitimate tools, and all partners available to us to meet this critical objective, including the private sector. We do not subsidize private sector companies as Laverdière led your readers to believe. We do not subsidize NGOs for that matter. We are an outcomes-driven agency and we will work with all legitimate partners who can help free people from the ill effects of poverty.
CIDA collaborates with developing country governments, civil society, multilateral institutions and the private sector in all areas of development, such as basic health, education and food assistance. They are all necessary partners to achieving meaningful development and economic growth that raises people out of poverty. A stronger economy creates more opportunities, more jobs, and allows families to support themselves. We cannot do this without the private sector. When we speak about the private sector, CIDA is equally speaking about large multinational companies that employ millions of people worldwide, and individual entrepreneurs operating in remote villages in the developing world.
Let me give you an example: Due to CIDA’s work, Vu Thi Ha — a terracotta pot factory owner in Vietnam — was able to improve her competitiveness with knowledge gained at a business development course. She is not alone. Between 2007 and 2010, in Vietnam alone, CIDA helped 1,200 small- and medium-sized businesses — 90 percent of them owned by women –increase their profits. I am also proud to say that CIDA works with the extractive sector to ensure it is transparent, accountable, sustainable and maximizes local benefits. The fact is that constructive NGOs understand this direction. They are working with us towards these objectives and are achieving meaningful results. CIDA’s collaboration with Plan Canada and IAMGOLD, for example, will train 10,000 youth in 13 communities of Burkina Faso so they can compete for higher paying jobs in their communities.
Development is not about dependency; it is about helping those in need get a leg up so they can prosper. This is a concept that the tax-and-spend NDP fundamentally do not understand. While the NDP would prefer to fund endless talk shops, I am committed to ensuring our development assistance is accountable, transparent and results-focused.
The fact is that CIDA is getting real results. Through Canada’s generosity, one million girls and boys in Haiti are receiving hot, nutritious meals in school each day. 7.8 million children have been vaccinated against polio in Afghanistan. And six million people received critical food assistance in the Sahel region of West Africa where a famine was averted because we acted quickly and decisively. This is a small sample of results we are achieving every day in every corner of the globe. The NDP should set aside their ideology and rhetoric and support CIDA, our partners and most importantly those people living in poverty around the world who aspire to become self-sufficient.
Minister of International Cooperation
Here’s the second one, in response to a Liberal critic who argued that certain proposed new reforms to Canada’s aid program might be illegal:
December 17, 2012
I read Liberal member of parliament John McKay’s recent article in the National Post with interest. It would be surprising only if we have not heard this tune from his party before. They are clearly befuddled as to how to contribute to effective development for those most in need around the world. Mr. McKay makes an inconsistent and incoherent argument centred on myths; which is ironic but not unexpected given his party’s track record.
The previous Liberal government, of which Mr. McKay was a member, was one that enjoyed making grand announcements concerning international aid. It had endless priorities, strategies and plans. Results, however, were harder to come by. To take one example, they failed on multiple occasions to meet their Food Aid Convention (FAC) commitments to provide lifesaving food to those suffering from famines, and assistance to smallholder farmers so they can become more self-sufficient.
Unlike the Liberals, our Conservative government has not only met our FAC commitments every year since taking office, we have exceeded it every year. We have done this because, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, “Canada is a compassionate neighbour.” We are dependable in times of great need. That is why we have adopted a principle of “pay what you pledge.”
We are walking the talk on this principle. Under our government’s leadership, Canada was the first G8 country to meets its L’Aquila commitment to strengthen food security for world’s most vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition. But the most important facts are results of our leadership. Just last year, working with the World Food Program, Canadian aid reached over 102 million people in over 70 countries.
Our government also took definitive action and “untied” all food assistance in 2008, meaning it was no longer a legislative requirement that half the food aid sent abroad had to be purchased in Canada. We are sourcing lifesaving food from the most cost-effective, and where possible, local sources. This is helping developing countries address immediate needs, feed those who are hungry quicker, and contributes to a solution to help people feed themselves – now and for the future. Mr. McKay cites the examples of “the United States, EU and U.K.,” as paragons worthy of Canadian emulation. He should take note that some of these countries and other donors continue to source food assistance domestically and ship it. They could learn from us.
Delivering food assistance more effectively is but one example of how we are getting beyond the rhetoric of the previous Liberal governments and focusing on results. We have also made our development assistance much more accountable and transparent to Canadians. The Canadian International Agency (CIDA) became a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) in 2011. The IATI improves the public availability and accessibility of information on aid. Through our “Open Data Portal” Canadians, partner countries, civil society, and Mr. McKay and his Liberal party, have access to information on all Canadian development investments at their fingertips.
Another area we have showed tangible success is in enabling transparent, accountable and economically viable extractive industries in developing countries. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Board recently declared Tanzania “compliant” with their standards for annual disclosure of financial information to local governments and communities. This information is published so that citizens know what extractives companies have contributed, and can hold the government accountable for the use of these funds. CIDA provided the technical support that made this project possible.
The drive for transparent and accountable mining that contributes to greater prosperity is also the impetus behind our government’s establishment of the Canadian Inter-national Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is to be jointly housed at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The institute will draw on Canadian expertise to help developing countries manage and govern their natural resources responsibly and to ensure that benefits are maximized for their people and their long-term development.
Pericles stated long ago in his funeral oration, “As for poverty, no one need be ashamed to admit it: the real shame is in not taking practical measures to escape from it.” Solving the complex challenge of untangling the effects of poverty is no easy task. It requires more than empty promises or feckless criticisms. While the Liberals are preoccupied with meaningless statistics, our Conservative government remains committed to achieving what really counts – life-saving results. We shall continue to remain focused on fostering legitimate, ethical, creative and practical measures that enable people escape the shackles of poverty.
Minister of International Cooperation