Official Development Assistance Accountability Act

An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

John McKay  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of May 29, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment sets out criteria respecting resource allocation to international development agencies and enhances transparency and monitoring of Canada’s international development efforts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • March 28, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing lines 30 to 35 on page 4 with the following: “to preparing the report required under section 13 of the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act, contribute the following to the report submitted to Parliament under subsection (1): ( a) the position taken by Canada on any resolution that is adopted by the Board of”
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 25 on page 3 with the following: “official development assistance as defined by this Act”
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 22 on page 3 with the following: “et des organismes de la société civile”
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 26 and 27 on page 3 with the following: “that meets the criteria in subsections (1) and (1.1).”
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 3 the following: “(1.1) Notwithstanding subsection (1), official development assistance may be provided for the purposes of alleviating the effects of a natural or artificial disaster or other emergency occurring outside Canada.”
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 6 on page 3 with the following: “les organisations de défense des droits de la”
  • March 28, 2007 Passed That Bill C-293, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 4 on page 3 with the following: “or”
  • Sept. 20, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, on this exceptional bill, Bill C-293, on an issue that I think is of interest to many Canadians.

It deals with international development and how we can make it more effective. Why do we want to do this? As a matter of course to the taxpayer. However, the people we are dealing with are some of the most underprivileged people in the entire world and, quite frankly, it is a matter of life and death for many of them.

I will focus on Africa. Why? Because it is the only part of the world where the social parameters and economies are in decline. It is ironic that 40% of the world's natural resources are in the continent of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, yet we see the worst cases of poverty on the entire globe.

In the 24 times that I have gone to Africa to work as a physician and engage in other aid and development projects on the ground, I can tell the House, and all of those who have been there know full well, that the people there are the most industrious, caring, compassionate and resourceful individuals. Acts of absolutely breathtaking charity and kindness are exercised by these people in the midst of abject poverty. It is extraordinary to see and humbling, coming from the west.

All the more ironic and heart-rending is the fact that there are massive resources of extraordinary amounts. The tragic irony is some of the poorest people live in the richest countries in the world, with resources of oil, diamonds, gold, minerals, timber and hydro in abundance. Why do we evidence all of these resources on one hand, but on the other hand we see abject poverty?

Let us go through some of the challenges and problems.

First is corruption. Corruption is the cancer that has eroded the continent. The fact that we as western countries have chosen to neglect this is a pox on our houses. We have chosen to neglect the gross excesses of leaders, from Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe to the Angolan government that has massive surpluses from oil, yet it is one of the worst places in the world for children to live. There are areas where there are conflicts, from Darfur to Chad, to the CAR and the Congo. We have seen countries ripped to pieces, innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire between groups that are fighting over resources, in part supported by western interests. We have done absolutely nothing. We have turned a blind eye.

How can we make our aid and development work better? I spoke of the problem of corruption, of a lack of capacity. We have umpteen numbers of solutions and frameworks that take place. We spend millions of dollars and those frameworks go absolutely no where. How on earth can we implement a framework if we do not have the people on the ground who have the capacity to execute them? It is an absolutely absurd situation, yet we expect these countries to get on their feet by giving them a framework that they cannot implement. They do not have the resources nor the people to do that. We give them the framework, we walk away and we are happy, with no effect on the ground. That is what we are talking about today.

There is a lack of basic infrastructure, human capacity and basic needs. When conflict arises and is in full force in front of us, when it is entirely possible to prevent those conflicts what have we done? Absolutely nothing. I have mentioned Darfur, Chad, CAR, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and the list goes on.

Aid is like a funnel. Money goes in one end and trickles out the other end to the people. Our aid is scattered, unfocused, disorganized, within government, between governments and within countries of need. Can we fix it? Absolutely. This is in no way a mark on the very good people who we have in CIDA. They have been labouring under umpteen numbers of troubles through decades, but we can and we must fix this.

For example, we do not support the partnership branch, which supports the smaller NGOs that do exceptional work on the ground. Rather, we give huge tranches of funds to large international NGOs, and we lose accountability and effect. Again, it is the funnel effect with huge amounts of money through large NGOs, international organizations, with a trickle down to the people on the ground.

What can we do? Let us focus on the millennium development goals: 12 countries; primary health; primary education; water security; food security; governance; and anti-corruption work. Let us focus on these six particular areas and we will have an effect.

How do we execute them? From an administrative perspective, we should use the “Three Ones” that has been championed by UN aids, one framework, one implementing mechanism and one oversight mechanism. We can do that with CIDA and through our programs abroad.

When look at health care, which is a particular interest of mine, we should focus on maternal health. Why? If we get maternal health right, we will have our health care personnel, our medications, clinics, water and food. If we affect the maternal mortality statistics, we will know our health care systems are essentially correct and this will affect the entire population.

It is a mistake to focus on a silo mechanism for dealing with health care internationally, for example, A's focus only on antiretrovirals. If we simply deal with diseases as silos, but we do not have the health care personnel, the diagnostics, the treatment facilities, the clean water and the nutrition, how on earth will we have an effect on the ground? How will we affect those parameters and the people who have been ripped to pieces by the worst scourge that has ever affected humanity.

What else can we do? Why do we not take the Canada Corps, which is a moribund, rump of an organization within CIDA. Why not tap into the potential within our own country, Canadians who desperately want to work abroad, both young people and those who are part of the early retirement group? They have the desire, the will, the time and the expertise to do this.

How would this work? The Canada Corps would be the interface between a country and our people at home. Our CIDA people would then be on the ground and they could ask the people what they need. How many nurses, doctors, engineers, judicial experts, agronomists, hydrologists and veterinarians do they need? It then brings a list back to Canada. The corps then asks various groups, such as the Canadian Medical Association, the nursing association, Lawyers Without Borders, Doctors Without Borders, the Canadian Teachers Association, to fill those areas. If we do that, a big gap will be filled. Those people would not only provide care, but they could also teach people in those countries how to be veterinarians, doctors, nurses or agronomists. A long term stable effect would be felt on the ground.

We need to focus on the partnership branch. We need to increase moneys to it and ensure Canadian NGOs are used. They do incredible work on the ground. People here in the House as well as their families are involved in this work.

In the end, the big answer to Africa is the private sector. How can we provide an environment with infrastructure where people will invest in developing countries, an environment where people can use the ample resources for their benefit and not for the benefit of the leaders who swan around in Mercédes-Benzs while their people live in gutters. That is happening right now. We can do this.

I encourage members to look at the example of what Sir Seretse Khama did in Botswana. He was a leader for the continent. He had the resources and he ensured that they were tapped into and his people benefited from that. Despite the fact that Botswana has tragic levels of HIV-AIDS, it has a relatively stable economically, and it is to the credit of Sir Seretse Khama and other African leaders like him who were able to do this.

I encourage the government not to ignore Africa because it is a continent of great hope and potential. It has extraordinary people who can definitely change the course of their future. They do not want handouts. They want a hand up. All they want is the same as all of us. They do not want to be shot. They do not want to be killed. They do not want their children to be abused. They do not want to have a leadership that robs their country blind.

They want to have clean water. They want to have access to clean food that they can get themselves. They want education for their children. They want roads that are clear and free of landmines.

They want a stable playing field, and if we enable them to have that, if we do not give it to them, there will be an opportunity where these people will be able to take care of themselves. They have the internal personal resources. They have the capability to do this themselves. They just want an opportunity.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly this evening in support of private member's Bill C-293, that is before the House at report stage.

The work that has gone into this bill to bring it to this point is an example of the kind of collaborative effort that often occurs in a positive, constructive way to a much greater degree in a minority government. I want to applaud the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for having very skilfully led this through the committee process.

Although we are dealing with a private member's bill and no one member is empowered to speak on behalf of all of one's colleagues, it would appear as though the consistent support that was expressed at the committee by the Liberal, Bloc and New Democratic Party members would reflect the support of their respective caucuses.

I am profoundly disappointed to hear the practically wholesale condemnation of the bill, that has now reached the report stage, coming from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation.

It is demeaning and not worthy of the really quite admirable, collaborative, and cooperative effort that has been displayed to describe the motives, which are not actually parliamentary, of committee members who have supported this in good faith and who have indicated they are prepared to support it, to be doing so only to score points with the Make Poverty History campaign. That is actually somewhat pathetic, I must say.

The Make Poverty History campaign was actually launched by Nelson Mandela as a global effort very much supporting the international cooperative effort to support the millennium development goals and to ensure that every single donor country in the world, every country that is as privileged as Canada is to have immense wealth relative to the developing countries, would live up to their international obligations.

The bill that is before us, which has already been noted by others who have spoken, is not about the volume of aid from Canada. In fact, a parallel effort has gone on for almost the last two years to try to get the Government of Canada to deliver at the level of the minimal requirement, the minimal obligation, that has been defined as the sort of international standard of 0.7% of our gross national income for official development assistance.

This bill is about delivering Canada's aid in a more effective, transparent and accountable way. A good effort has been made into the evolution of the development assistance accountability act. This is a third iteration of a bill that goes back, to give credit where it is due, to the former New Democratic member for Churchill who initially introduced the bill. I subsequently did so. There have been refinements and improvements that have come as a result of the good faith effort at committee and as a result of hearing from witnesses. It is extremely disappointing that the government would basically sweep it aside as being completely unworthy.

Having said that, I hope that what we will see at third reading is sufficient support for this private member's initiative to in fact pass in the House. Such is often a possibility in a minority Parliament.

We are talking in this instance about recognizing how much we owe it to Canadians, as well as to the recipients of ODA, to be as effective and accountable as possible in the use of every single last dollar that is intended to go to overseas official development assistance.

To have an accurate picture, in 2005-06 CIDA's authorized budget was $3.3 billion of which $3.1 billion was disbursed mainly through grants and contributions. This is not about the amount of aid. It is about having a sense of the volume of aid about which we are speaking. Even though it falls very short of our obligation to 0.7%, it is a sizable sum of money.

If we delivered at the level that Sweden or Finland delivers, we would triple the amount of aid that we contribute now. However, the real issue is about the transparency and the accountability in this instance.

I think, as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood has said, anyone who has visited developing countries and has seen the grinding, devastating poverty conditions in which so many women, men and children are living would want to use every possible means we could to make that aid as effective as humanly possible.

We observed these conditions in Kenya. I then had the privilege to spend a week in Uganda at the same time as the member who has sponsored this private member's bill visited Africa with two of our colleagues. We saw children living in the most squalid conditions imaginable, open sewers, no basic sanitation, children who could not possibly remain healthy because of the health hazards. Their living conditions are so desperate that there is no possibility of escaping contamination by TB. We saw families conscientiously trying to use bed nets to prevent their children from suffering from malaria. All of these conditions were crying out for the most effective possible response from donor countries.

Therefore, we should celebrate the fact that a great many witnesses came before our committee. This project started on April 1 of 2003 when we began to really look at our ODA obligations and how we could improve our accountability and transparency as well as meet our obligations at a higher level of ODA.

In the incredible collaborative spirit in which people came together again and again before the committee to plead the case of our doing a more effective job with our aid and also with a more generous allocation of our dollars for aid, I hope the government will reconsider why it would strengthen the message to Canadians and our commitment to the poorest of the poor in the world.

We should pass the bill in this Parliament as a unanimous gesture to say we can do better, we will do more and we will maximize our effectiveness as a generous contributor to overseas official development assistance for those in the world who desperately need our support.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening on Bill C-293 at the report stage.

For the information of our citizens, I will provide the background for this bill. In her report of February 2005, the Auditor General of Canada flagged certain issues pertaining to CIDA management. The report listed the following five criticisms, among others. First, the increased use of grants rather than contributions to finance aid projects is worrisome. Second, CIDA disburses grants in advance of needs. Third, CIDA does not verify in-kind contributions. For example, of 19 files reviewed, 12 mentioned this type of contribution and for 11 there was no indication that CIDA had determined the real value. Fourth, only 3 of 19 agreements analyzed indicated that CIDA had reviewed project costs to ensure that there was no profit. Fifth, CIDA must strengthen its current practices regarding audits because it is possible, among other things, that the agency is refunding unauthorized expenses.

The Auditor General's criticisms indicate that there are significant gaps in CIDA's accountability and transparency and that legislation to that end is required. In addition, over the past 25 years, we have seen a significant reduction in poverty world-wide. With the emergence of new economic powers such as China and India, thousands of people no longer suffer abject poverty and have been able to get an education, live as equals, and relieve their hunger. However, conditions have deteriorated in some countries. We are still a long way from a world where no one goes hungry and where the infant mortality rate is comparable to that in the West. We are still very far from Kofi Annan's reform project. On March 21, 2005, Kofi Annan, then the UN Secretary General, released a report in which he indicated his intention to strengthen the UN. His three major themes were: freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity.

The Bloc Québécois supports the Kofi Annan project to implement measures that will enable all peoples worldwide to live in freedom from want and fear and to live in dignity. Canada must do its part to make this happen.

That said, the wording of the bill at second reading was a bit confusing. In clause 2, the bill stated that Canadian official development assistance abroad must be provided with a central focus on poverty reduction.

What role does fighting poverty play in development assistance? We know that fighting poverty is a very good way to promote development. However, we would have liked to have seen a provision in the bill that broadened, as much as possible, the definition of the word “poverty”. Poverty is not just a money issue; it is also a social issue. That is why we think the UN's millennium goals provide the best framework for working to reduce poverty.

The UN has established eight millennium development goals. The first is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The second is to achieve universal primary education. The third is to promote gender equality and empower women. The fourth is to reduce child mortality. The fifth is to improve maternal health. The sixth is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The seventh is to ensure environmental sustainability. The eighth is to develop a global partnership for development.

The bill addresses only two of the eight goals: fighting poverty and sustainable development. But fighting poverty is more than just one of the eight goals. As part of his freedom from poverty agenda, Kofi Annan wrote:

We need to see the Millennium Development Goals as part of an even larger development agenda. ... they clearly do not in themselves represent a complete development agenda.

We presented an amendment to that effect to the committee. The amendment stipulated that the fight against poverty take into account related issues, such as health, education and equality.

Our amendment was defeated. All the same, we believe that this bill is a step in the right direction, because it provides a framework for official development assistance by ensuring that it focusses on poverty reduction.

In addition to defining official development assistance, this bill stipulates that assistance must take the poor into account. We firmly believe that any official development assistance must take into account the perspectives of the poor. Such assistance is intended to improve their living conditions and their housing environment, so it makes sense to take into account the perspectives of the very people we are trying to help.

Currently, CIDA is centred in Ottawa. Roughly 80% of CIDA's employees work in the national capital. How can CIDA take into account the perspectives of the poor when most of its employees work in offices in Ottawa? We hope that this bill will pave the way for a reform of CIDA that will decentralize the agency's activities to the countries that receive official development assistance.

There are a number of benefits to adopting such a bill, including the creation of monitoring, accountability and transparency mechanisms. Who can be against that? For example, clause 9 of the bill is designed to ensure that assistance is provided more transparently. It also requires the competent minister to table in the House a report containing the amount the government spends on official development assistance, a summary of any activity or initiative taken under this bill, a summary of the annual report submitted under the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act and a summary of CIDA's performance report.

Much of this information is already published. What is new is that all the information would be assembled in a single document, providing a better overview of CIDA's work and Canada's official development assistance. This would facilitate the legislators' work, because it would be easier for them to identify problems and solve them in accordance with this bill.

At second reading, Bill C-293 included three clauses, 6, 7 and 8, which were dropped. These three clauses represented the most substantial aspects of the bill. These clauses were dropped because it was thought that they needed a royal recommendation and were therefore out of order. Even without these three clauses, this bill is still important because, as I was saying earlier, this is a step in the right direction and it finally provides a framework for development assistance.

We also expressed some reservations about clause 2.(1) which states that all Canadian official development assistance activities are to be provided in a manner that is consistent with Canadian values. What is meant by “Canadian values”? This is vague and ambiguous. We proposed an amendment to define this term and used the definition on the CIDA site as a reference. Our amendment was approved by the committee. The new definition reads as follows: “Canadian values means, amongst others, values of global citizenship, equity and environmental sustainability”.

However, can we even talk about Canadian values? In our view, it would be more fair to talk about the values of Canada's nations. The values of a country are those that stem from the nation or nations that make up that country. As we know, there is more than one nation in Canada.

Given that poverty offers fertile ground for terrorism, urgent action is needed. The time for action has come and then some. The federal government would have to be serious about its desire to alleviate poverty around the world. Yet, both the Liberals and the Conservatives lack the political will to set aside funds for development assistance in the budget. Even if the Conservatives maintain the budget increase for development assistance at 8% annually, this is still not enough of an increase to allow Canada to reach the target of 0.7% of our GNP by 2015.

For more than 10 years, many people have been calling on the government to adopt legislation on development assistance. Today, this Parliament has the perfect opportunity to take action and make a difference.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak once again to Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad.

As I said before, the House will find no disagreement from the government on the fundamental principles underlying the proposed legislation. We can all agree that poverty reduction should be a driving value in our aid efforts and that poverty reduction entails a commitment to better health and education, the promotion and protection of human rights, environmental sustainability and equality between men and women.

However, our government believes that poverty reduction means more than just that. Successful poverty reduction also requires strengthened democratic governance in developing countries to ensure that governments protect, respect and promote the rights of citizens. Providing basic health and education is essential but will produce no lasting benefits if a government turns on its own citizens or is incapable of protecting them from lawlessness, crime and corruption.

Our government is implementing programs based on this broader definition of poverty reduction in order to help bring freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, long-lasting development and compassion to those less fortunate. We take this very seriously.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the members of the opposition. Canada focuses its development assistance program in the poorest developing countries and, within those countries, on improving the lives of the poorest and the most vulnerable men, women and children.

There is no doubt that we can do more but doing more also means working smarter to ensure that our aid dollars are spent more effectively, with greater accountability and with clear results for the poor in developing countries.

Our government's commitment to aid effectiveness has been clear from the beginning and is reflected in our determination to focus our aid program and to strengthen our ability to deliver aid effective initiatives, with results commensurate with dollars spent.

Our commitment to greater accountability also means demonstrating this effectiveness to Canadians. Starting in 2007, we will publish an annual report on the international development results and that is to be delivered to Parliament and to Canadians. We have a positive story to tell Canadians and we intend to tell it.

However, I fear that the opposition is more concerned about scoring political points with the Make Poverty History campaign than it is about ensuring we pass concrete legislation for our development assistance. This is evident in the bill, a bill that is unclear, lacks ministerial accountability and opens us up to potential legal challenges at almost every turn.

In my speech at second reading, I highlighted some of the difficulties the bill presented, serious concerns that my colleagues and I have tried to address and amend at committee stage. For example, CIDA currently falls under the Foreign Affairs Act, meaning that if no minister of international cooperation is named by the governor in council, the responsibility of the agency falls to the minister of foreign affairs.

This is a legal relationship that already exists. In our committee deliberations on Tuesday, December 12, 2006, at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, despite efforts by myself and my colleagues to clarify for the opposition members this relationship, the committee voted 7 to 4 to disregard this relationship and create its own definition of the minister.

I have provided for the House merely one example of the confusion the bill creates and the irresponsible actions of the opposition members.

Legislation can help strengthen Canada's development assistance, particularly when the mandate is straightforward and precise, when accountabilities are clear and when reporting on those results is substantive and unambiguous. Legislation that meets these tests can be an enormously powerful instrument for guiding and focusing our aid program.

Bill C-293 fails these tests and, I am sorry to say, was not helped by the actions of many opposition members on the committee.

In our view, Bill C-293 is flawed because it fails to provide a precise, transparent mandate and it encumbers ministers responsible for Canada's aid program with onerous, unnecessary and inappropriate accountabilities that increase administrative burden but do not add value to aid programming. Why should three government departments be asked to table the same information?

The end result is a cumbersome piece of legislation that lacks essential clarity and operational efficiency. The bill is so laden with unproductive restrictions and unnecessary criteria that it would do nothing more than overload the aid program with an administrative and bureaucratic complexity.

There are a number of specific issues with this bill that I wish to touch on.

First, a workable mandate statement must be precise, simple and clear. The mandate statement of Bill C-293 is none of these things. Instead, it creates a number of overlapping and complex obligations on the aid program.

In our view, the legal requirement that the minister should take into account the perspectives of the poor when disbursing Canadian assistance, begs a question. What would be the test of such a requirement? Not only is it impossible to interpret this requirement but it adds rigidity to an approach that should remain flexible and responsive to local circumstances in developing countries.

That obligation in the proposed mandate statement may impinge upon a process of developing priorities that is usually determined at the country level following consultations with a variety of actors, including people living in poverty. These procedures vary from country to country, depending on the political circumstances and the level of commitment by the government to poverty reduction, human rights and governance framework. They already exist as good practice and should remain as such.

I also wish to discuss the issue of jurisdiction over the aid program. This issue requires very careful review because jurisdictions for Canadian development assistance overlap. We agree that accountabilities for the aid program require careful review but, in our view, the rush to ensure this bill passes into legislation has not given us the time to review and refine ministerial accountabilities regarding the aid program.

Finally, the reporting provisions of the bill remain redundant and confuse ministerial accountability. For example, the named minister is required to report on activities that may not fall under his or her jurisdiction. There are several instances where new reports would merely be a synthesis of material that is already in the public domain. In other words, it is old wine in new bottles.

Finally, much of the reporting asked for is already authorized under the legislation, for example, in the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act.

In my view, Bill C-293, despite being worthy in its intent, is highly flawed legislation and should not be adopted because of its many shortcomings. I would remind my colleagues that we will be judged on the international stage by this legislation. I would suggest, if this bill does pass, that as members of Parliament and as legislators in this country we should be ashamed to support such poorly drafted legislation.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-293, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 4 on page 3 with the following:

“or”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-293, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 6 on page 3 with the following:

“les organisations de défense des droits de la”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 3 the following:

“(1.1) Notwithstanding subsection (1), official development assistance may be provided for the purposes of alleviating the effects of a natural or artificial disaster or other emergency occurring outside Canada.”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 22 on page 3 with the following:

“et des organismes de la société civile”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 25 on page 3 with the following:

“official development assistance as defined by this Act”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 26 and 27 on page 3 with the following:

“that meets the criteria in subsections (1) and (1.1).”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 26 on page 3 with the following:

“that meets the criteria in subsections (1) and (1.1), and”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-293 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-293, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing lines 30 to 35 on page 4 with the following:

“to preparing the report required under section 13 of the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act, contribute the following to the report submitted to Parliament under subsection (1):

(a) the position taken by Canada on any resolution that is adopted by the Board of”

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members in the House and indeed many who are listening for the help that they have given me with this bill. I think this has been a worthwhile effort. It is in an effort to bring accountability to our aid projects, our official development assistance. It is a bit of an example of cooperation among all parties. I think at the end of the day we do have a product that many members will find themselves able to support. I even want to thank government members who from time to time even offered assistance. It is quite a remarkable phenomenon for us in the opposition to have support from government members.

This is about better aid. It is not about more aid.

I just want to offer an observation with respect to a report by a Senate committee chaired by Senator Segal that comments upon our aid in sub-Saharan Africa. The observation, according to news reports, was that we have put somewhere in the order of about $12 billion into sub-Saharan Africa and it is not observable what it is we actually got for that significant sum of money. The senators' observations in these areas are actually quite acute. I think that this particular bill, assuming it arrives in the Senate, hopefully sooner rather than later, addresses in some small measure the concerns of the senators as they expressed them in their report. I am hoping that the Senate will also see fit to support this bill.

When I started work on this bill, it seemed like a good idea. It was in accord with my own observations that our own official development assistance was not well focused. I thought it was a good bill to put before the House to generate debate and to see how far it went. But last month, I went to Kenya with the member for Halifax, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I do not know whether other members have actually had an opportunity to travel in Africa but if they had the experience that we had, they would know that this bill is now a personal matter.

We had met, in some small measure, the actual people this bill would affect. We had personal conversations in the slums of Nairobi with the people this bill would affect. We had personal conversations in West Kenya with the people this bill would affect.

This bill directs that our official development assistance will be directed for poverty alleviation. That will be the litmus test of official development assistance.

At the time, it was pretty hard to look those people in the eye and say that we want accountability and we want this and we want that. It was pretty darned hard because we were meeting some people from an organization called the Jami Bora Trust. These people are street prostitutes. These people are petty thieves. Many of them, probably in the order of 50% of them, have AIDS. They are the poorest of the poor. They simply have no money, nothing that we would constitute as an asset. Yet Jami Bora Trust was willing to lend them money based upon any savings that they had. If they had what we would call $10 in their bank account, Jami Bora Trust would actually lend them $20 more. With that $30, they would open small businesses.

It was just remarkable the transformation that those small businesses would make to the lives of those people. They could cease to be prostitutes. They could cease to be petty criminals. They could actually earn enough to buy enough food and to get medications that might be made available to them for TB, malaria or AIDS. It was a remarkable transformation. It was remarkable to see people who, for ridiculously small amounts of money, were able to purchase malaria nets. In some instances, they were given to them free.

We were in a situation with three or four African huts around a compound, just like in National Geographic. I can still see this woman looking at me and saying, “Because we have these nets, now my children do not scratch themselves in the morning, they do not get sick and they actually go to school more often”. This bill would help with those things.

We went through the Kibera slums and it was quite remarkable. There were three students for one book. At one time it was 15 students to one textbook. Can anyone imagine 15 students to one textbook? With Canada's assistance, that was brought down to three students to a textbook, and obviously a lot more can be done. It is a hugely successful program but that is the kind of thing that this bill could affect.

We went through the Kibera primary school, right in the middle of one of the worst slums of Nairobi, and what we saw were 2,400 students being schooled by 36 teachers. That is the kind of thing we could be doing and the kind of thing we should be doing.

I submit that this bill could make a difference in people's lives, which is why I am urging hon. members to support it.

At this point, we have no legislated mandate or rules on how we spend our ODA funds. I confess that I may be exaggerating somewhat here, but it seems that whoever puts up his or her hand last is the one who gets the project money. This bill would actually give the minister a legislated focus as to how she or he spends our official development assistance funds.

The critical test will be whether the money will go to poverty alleviation and, if the money does go toward poverty alleviation, micro-finance in the slums of Nairobi, bed nets in west Kenya or primary school books in the schools of Kenya, then the minister can say to her colleagues or others that it does fall within our official development assistance mandate.

The point of this bill is to focus our official development assistance on poverty alleviation. I want to ensure that members understand that would not prevent us from providing other assistance. In the amendments, the discussions and the time in committee, we tried to make that as clear as we possibly could. One of the amendments that was read into the record makes it about as clear as possible that this would not prevent the minister or other members of the government from doing precisely that.

Bill C-293 would create a clear mandate that ODA and all ODA funded projects would first need to demonstrate that their objectives include poverty reduction.

The second test is whether the projects take into account the perspectives of the poor. I suppose if a point were driven home to me while I was in Kenya, the perspectives of the poor are extremely important.

The third test is whether they are consistent with international standards.

The criteria for ODA funded projects, however, do not apply in the instances of humanitarian assistance.

This bill has become personal to me because of my trip to Kenya with my colleagues in the House. I can still see the faces of the people who will be affected if this legislation passes.

Speaker's Ruling
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

At this time I would like to share with the House the ruling by the Speaker concerning the motions at report stage of Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad.

There are nine motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-293. Motions Nos. 1 to 9 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table. The Chair has also examined these amendments and finds that they do not contain any provisions which would require a royal recommendation.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 9 to the House.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Bill C-293—Development Assistance Accountability Act—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Private Members' Business

February 19th, 2007 / noon
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader on February 16, 2007, concerning amendments reported by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on February 1, 2007 to Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad.

The parliamentary secretary referred to my previous ruling of September 19, 2006, where I addressed the need for a royal recommendation for this bill. At that time, I identified several clauses in the bill which contained the provisions for the authorization of new spending for a distinct purpose.

To quote from the ruling:

The Chair has reviewed this matter carefully and agrees that the establishment of the advisory committee for international development cooperation provided for in clause 6 clearly would require the expenditure of public funds in a manner and for a purpose not currently authorized.

Similarly, the provisions in clauses 7 to 10, which describe the functions of the advisory committee with regard to the process of petitioning and reporting, are also functions which would require the authorization of spending for a new and distinct purpose.

As such, clause 6 and clauses 7 to 10 cause the bill as a whole in its current form to require a royal recommendation. Accordingly, I will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill unless a royal recommendation is received.

In his intervention, the Parliamentary Secretary asked for an assessment of the effect of committee amendments on the clauses identified by the Chair. He also raised questions concerning the operation of clauses 3 and 4 which he contends affect the terms and conditions attached to the original legislation.

The Parliamentary Secretary cited previous rulings which underlined the need to adhere to the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation and not only to the amount of spending.

Finally, he referred to the fact that the Chair did not consider clauses 3 and 4 in its ruling of September 19, 2006.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development adopted a number of amendments to the bill following my ruling on September 19, 2006. Notably and most importantly the committee deleted clause 6 which created the advisory committee. The committee also deleted clauses 7, 8 and 10 which dealt with the functions of the advisory committee, and amended clauses 3 and 9 so as to remove references to the advisory committee.

Therefore, the provisions which were earlier identified by the Chair as requiring a royal recommendation because they were related to or were dependent upon the establishment of the advisory committee were removed from Bill C-293.

I will now turn to the issues involving clauses 3 and 4 of the bill as addressed by the parliamentary secretary.

Clause 3 is known as the interpretation clause and contains definitions for the terms used in this piece of legislation. The parliamentary secretary notes that the committee introduced a definition for “official development assistance” which reads as follows:

“official development assistance” means international assistance

(a) that is administered with the principal objective of promoting the economic development and welfare of developing countries, that is concessional in character, that conveys a grant element of at least 25%, and that meets the requirements set out in section 4; and/or

(b) that is provided for the purpose of alleviating the effects of a natural or artificial disaster or other emergency occurring outside Canada.

He argued that this definition and similar provisions in clause 4 alter the terms and conditions of the original legislative authority and consequently cause the bill to require a royal recommendation. The parliamentary secretary raised some important points that the Chair wishes to address, the first being that provisions in subclause 4.(2) oblige the minister to consult.

The Chair is of the view that this sort of provision does not create new spending for a distinct purpose. Consultations like this fall within the ongoing mandate of the minister. The Chair, however, does have serious concerns about the claim that provisions in the definition add new conditions and criteria to official development assistance that is, “concessional in character, [and] that conveys a grant element of at least 25%”.

The parliamentary secretary argued that these provisions alter the conditions and qualifications originally attached to assistance for developing countries as found in subsection 10.(3) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act which reads as follows:

The Minister may develop and carry out programs related to the Minister’s powers, duties and functions for the promotion of Canada’s interests abroad including:

(b) the provision of assistance for developing countries.

As this is a fairly broad statutory provision, the Chair conducted some further research, to better understand how existing official development assistance, as presently authorized by acts of Parliament, was currently being provided.

The Chair turned to the departmental performance report for the Canadian International Development Agency for the year ending March 31, 2006. On page 8 it states:

In 2005-2006, CIDA's authorized budget was $3.3 billion and its actual spending was $3.1 billion, disbursed mainly through grants and contributions...CIDA's budget is part of the International Assistance Envelope (IAE), a jointly-managed envelope which funds official development assistance (ODA), as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee.

I will not give all the letters for those but I am going to refer to them now.

And in footnote 4, it says:

ODA is defined by the OECD-DAC as funding transferred “to development countries and multilateral institutions provided by official government agencies which meets the following tests: (a) it is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective, and (b) it is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25%”.

The Chair notes that the criteria presently used for the disbursement of grants and contributions for official development assistance, as explained by the government in the departmental performance report, is identical to the criteria found in clause 3 of Bill C-293.

Bill C-293 at first reading only contained a reference to the OECD-DAC in clause 3. Amendments adopted in committee simply inserted in the interpretation clause the full text of the existing criteria used by the government. The Chair therefore must conclude that the conditions and qualifications, which were attached to the original authorization for spending, have not been altered in any manner. If anything, the bill reinforces the criteria presently employed by the government itself. Consequently, in the unique context this bill presents, and despite an impressive demonstration of scholarly research by the parliamentary secretary who quoted from previous rulings of mine and of Mr. Speaker Fraser, I must conclude that these provisions in Bill C-293, as amended, do not cause the bill to require a royal recommendation.

The Chair has examined carefully all other amendments adopted by the standing committee and can confirm that none of these additional modifications would require a royal recommendation.

To summarize then, the deletions made by the committee eliminated the problematic issue set out in my earlier ruling last September. Consequently, debate on this bill may proceed and the Chair will put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form, which requires no royal recommendation.

I thank all hon. members for their patience in listening to this rather lengthy explanation and ruling.

Bill C-293--Development Assistance Accountability Act
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

February 16th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, on May 13, 2006, you included Bill C-293 in a list of private members' items with possible royal recommendation issues. Following interventions in the House, on September 19, 2006, you ruled that the bill, as it was introduced, requires a royal recommendation.

You found that the creation of an advisory committee and new reporting requirements for ministers:

--require the authorization of spending for a new and distinct purpose.

As such, clause 6 and clauses 7 to 10 cause the bill as a whole in its current form to require a royal recommendation.

On February 1, the bill was reported from committee with numerous amendments.

Without commenting on the merits of this bill, I would appreciate your consideration of whether this bill still requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79, for two reasons.

First, while the committee deleted clauses 6 to 8, the bill as amended continues to include clause 9, and the provisions that had been in clause 10 have been substantially incorporated into clause 9. Given that your previous ruling concluded that clauses 9 and 10 required a royal recommendation, I would welcome your ruling on whether the bill still requires a royal recommendation.

A second aspect of the bill that may require a royal recommendation is that the bill would establish new conditions and criteria respecting the provision of official development assistance beyond those in the initial bill.

The committee amended clause 3 of the bill to provide for a definition of “official development assistance”, which includes that it be “concessional in character”, that it “conveys a grant element of at least 25%”, and that it “meets the requirements set out in section 4” of the bill.

Clause 4 of the bill places restrictions on the provision of official development assistance. Clause 4 was amended in committee to change the wording in subclause 4(2), obliging the minister to “consult with governments, international agencies and Canadian civil society organizations” before spending official development assistance. Clause 4 was also amended to provide a new subclause 4(3), which places a new condition on the calculation of official development assistance.

Authority for official development assistance is currently provided in subsection 10(3) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act, which provides the Minister of Foreign Affairs with authority to develop and carry out programs in relation to the minister's powers, including for the provision of assistance to developing countries.

You did not consider clauses 3 and 4 in your initial ruling on Bill C-293 on September 19, 2006. However, there have been new developments since that time.

In your ruling on Bill C-303 on November 6, 2006, you found that adding new conditions and criteria to an otherwise authorized expenditure requires a royal recommendation and that the clauses of Bill C-303:

--which relate to the making of transfer payments according to the specified criteria and conditions, require a royal recommendation.

This principle should apply to Bill C-293 as well, which would impose new conditions on government spending.

Other precedents make clear that adding new conditions to an otherwise authorized expenditure require a royal recommendation. For example, on April 23, 1990, Speaker Fraser ruled that a royal recommendation was appropriate because the bill in question would:

--change the conditions and qualifications that were attached to the original legislation recommended by the Governor General.

This is exactly what clauses 3 and 4 of Bill C-293 would do, by imposing new conditions on development assistance.

Therefore, due to the committee's amendments and in light of your ruling on Bill C-303, the government believes that Bill C-293 continues to require a royal recommendation.

I would respectfully welcome your ruling on this matter.

Africa
Statements By Members

February 14th, 2007 / 2 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, last month I had the opportunity to visit Africa with my colleagues from Halifax, Cumberland—Colchester and Scarborough—Guildwood. Our trip was arranged by RESULTS Canada, an outstanding NGO that advocates on issues of poverty.

We visited the notorious slums of Nairobi and other regions of Kenya to gain insight into the effects of HIV-AIDS, malaria and TB, an absolutely curable disease that needlessly kills 300 Kenyans every day.

We visited a micro credit trust, Jammi Bora, which is doing transformative work with the poorest of the poor. We met remarkable people like Beatrice who has lost all seven of her children and their spouses to HIV in less than two years but who has overcome this to raise her 12 grandchildren.

Africa is a continent of horror but also of hope, of people who are resilient, industrious and entrepreneurial.

Canada must do more. We can do more by passing Bill C-293, focusing our aid on poverty, and by recommitting to our millennium development goals.

The world needs more Canada and Africa needs more from Canada.

February 13th, 2007 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have to say, the characterization of support for Mahmoud Abbas as — and I think I'm accurately quoting — “funding a terrorist death cult” causes me a great deal of concern about how counterproductive, provocative, and dead wrong many of the things I've heard from your organization today really are. But I don't want to pursue that.

I'd like to ask a question to both groups with respect to the government's — the government likes to call itself the new Conservative government — creation of the Office for Democratic Governance, which is now having funding rolled out to support its activities. My question is whether either of your organizations was consulted in the process of the creation of that new Office for Democratic Governance. And what would you hope would be the results of its creation?

Second, given the amount of focus the Canadian Coalition for Democracies has expressed about transparency, accountability, and so on, what is your position on Bill C-293, which this committee has been dealing with and which is largely inspired by the need for ensuring effectiveness, transparency, and greater accountability?

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

February 1st, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in relation to Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad. In accordance with its orders of reference of Wednesday, September 30, 2006, the committee has considered Bill C-293, and agreed on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 to report it with amendments.

January 30th, 2007 / 9:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

So Bill C-293, in your view, would allow you to get aid money? Is that what you think?

January 30th, 2007 / 9:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Thank you. I'll share my time with my colleague Bill.

I have two questions here. You're right that Canadians do have excellent reputation and expertise overseas in this issue. At the same time, you talked about local engagement. The new area coming out is these tribunals that have been set up, like the Rwanda genocide tribunal and all these things. I was there in Arusha, looking at the tribunal. There is a huge amount of expertise sitting in the tribunal—local expertise, not outside expertise.

The Rwanda tribunal is coming to an end very soon—by this year, I think it is. There is a big potential of losing all of this expertise that was gained in the law. Is there any way in which your area is pushing to see, say, that you are engaged with the governments of east Africa? There's a best opportunity right there to see how you can move to retain their expertise before it is lost.

This is a new area coming up. You have been all concentrating on helping the bar society and everything out there, but United Nations tribunals sitting around the world are something new that has come out. I think they're an area that we should look at to see that the expertise is not lost.

I have another question related to this. You were talking about federal spending on the rule of law and everything that you request of this. The committee has just passed Bill C-293, which says that aid should be focused on poverty reduction. What would happen to this? This would not be classified as aid, so how would we then be able to transfer money over there? What are your thoughts on that?

December 13th, 2006 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Okay.

I move that Bill C-293 be amended by replacing “development assistance” with “official development assistance” in the following provisions: (a) through (i)--which I think everybody has in front of them.