Official Development Assistance Accountability Act

An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

John McKay  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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.

Retirement Income Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2010 / 7 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-574. I want to congratulate my colleague. I do not think anybody in Parliament has done more work going around the country and understanding the need to strengthen and make our pension more robust than the member for York West.

One of the biggest issues facing Canadians today is the security of senior citizens. If they have gone past working age, what are they going to live on? It is an increasing problem. Among the saddest meetings we have as members of Parliament, certainly in my case, are with people who tell me they are retired or were planning to retire very soon but it has all gone up in smoke. What they thought was there is not. These are people who do not have the option of going back into the workforce, or if they do, their options are very significantly limited.

So I really want to congratulate my colleague from York West. She has worked hard. She has travelled extensively in a non-political, non-partisan way and has brought forward this very important bill.

We know that a significant number of seniors live in poverty. Canada as a country has done a pretty good job over the last 20 to 30 years of reducing poverty rates among seniors. Going back to the 1970s, we have reduced poverty rates among seniors pretty significantly. It has been on the rise again over the past few years, but the poverty rate among seniors has gone down very significantly.

The problem is that there are still groups of seniors, and it tends to be single women, who have very high rates of poverty. We need to take that into account. However, it is not just the lowest income Canadians. Many middle-income Canadians are having a really difficult time now dealing with retirement.

I can recall somebody in a private company where I used to work who told me the story of having come out of technical school years ago with a friend of his. While my friend went to work for a private company, a big, reputable company, his friend went to work for the City of Dartmouth. Thirty-five years later when they went to retire, the person who had the good pension plan and worked for the City of Dartmouth was very well situated, while my friend did not have very much because the pension plan simply was not as robust.

In many cases, back in those days, people did not look at a pension plan when they started working at the age of 18, 19 or 20. They looked at the salary and never really understood the implications down the road for themselves and for their families if they did not have a strong pension plan.

Then there is the case of Canadians who believe, for valid reasons, that they have a robust pension plan. They work for large, reputable, seemingly solid companies, in many cases world-leading companies such as Nortel. Ten years ago, who would have imagined that people who worked for a company such as Nortel would have trouble? Then when things go bad for the company, they are left holding the bag, and the bag happens to be almost completely empty.

So what do we do? What is the role of parliamentarians in this House? What role does the federal government have? First, the regulation of private retirement savings is in fact a shared responsibility, federally and provincially. Federally, we have the Income Tax Act. We can take some of the instruments that we have control of and make them better.

I want to refer to the issue raised by my colleague from the New Democrats who would say that this bill does not really do anything and that we have a $700 million poverty gap for seniors. This is a private member's bill. I look at the work that members such as my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood did on his private member's bill, Bill C-293, the development assistance act. Those of us in the House know that many Canadians may not know what a royal recommendation is. Very simply it means that, with a private member's bill, we cannot call upon the government to spend money. We can bring it forward, and we have seen many bills from the New Democrats and the Bloc, well intended bills, that required the spending of money, but they do not go anywhere.

Serious parliamentarians who actually want to make things better will craft a bill that is a road map to a better place but does not call on the government to spend money. In other words, some members in the House bring forward bills that can never be enacted, or they can be serious about it and provide a road map. Members can come to the House to make a point or to make a difference, and my colleague from York West is trying to make a difference.

The summary of the bill we are debating today, Bill C-574, is very simple. It says:

This enactment creates a Bill of Rights for a retirement income system that promotes the goals of adequacy, transparency, affordability, equity, flexibility, security and accessibility for all Canadians.

I think in many ways that says it all.

My colleague from York West, in a media release sent out about a month ago, indicated that as she presented the bill in the House of Commons, she noted that the legislation proposes:

to enshrine in law the notion that all Canadians have the right to contribute to a decent retirement plan and to be provided with up-to-date, unbiased and conflict-free information on their retirement savings.

There are 308 members of the House. Many of us have been in business, many of us have been employed, and there are entrepreneurs in this House.

There are a lot of people, and they are not foolish people, who think they are covered, as was the case with the Nortel workers and other people, who simply do not understand that if a company goes under, their retirement goes under as well.

They assume that this is all done above board and it is done with a third-party insurer. They do not understand the concept of self-insurance. I think the government has a role in this case to translate to Canadians what actually is the case so they are not fooled when things go bad.

Our Canada pension plan, established in 1966 under Prime Minister Pearson, was a good and noble goal. It is working. We have had problems. In the early 1990s, there was a severe underfunding of it. Jean Chrétien as prime minister, and Paul Martin as the finance minister, put it on sound financial footing. At the time, I do not think people fully understood how important that was. I do not think the credit was given, but that was a very important piece of both economics and social policy that made it possible for many people to have secure pensions.

Today, once again, we have significant barriers. The bill that we are debating today, Bill C-574, proposes to address that. To some, it may not do enough; to others, maybe it does too much. Maybe that is why it is a good bill, because it sets a road map for Canadians who are having issues with their pensions. It does as much as it possibly can within the restrictions of being a private member's bill. Many people are supporting it.

What does it do? The bill would do five things: create substantive, justiciable rights; give every person a chance to accumulate retirement income in a plan that will be there in the long term, because many Canadians simply cannot join a group pension plan right now; promote good administration of retirement income plans; ensure that members of retirement income plans regularly receive good, plain language information that they need about their plans; and set out in law the goals to which we aspire legislatively as they relate to retirement income.

We all know that Canada is heading into a demographic crunch. We heard from the member for York West her statistic that by 2036 there will be 10.9 million Canadians over the age of 65. It is my sure and fervent hope that I will be among them, because the alternative does not turn me on very much.

The other statistic that I will give people, just to give a sense of where we are going as a country, is from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. They were in to visit MPs recently and they shared a statistic with us that really says it all. Today in Canada, 44% of all Canadians are not in the workforce. That includes senior citizens, children, the unemployed and those who are unable to work. By 2031, in 20 years, 61% of Canadians will not be in the workforce.

The challenges that presents to us are clear. If Canadians are not in the workforce, they are not producing as much tax revenue for the country that we are going to need; and clearly, at the same time, there is going to be more of a demand for things such as health care and social services.

Many of that 61% will have earned a retirement. I am not suggesting for a second that they should be forced to work. In fact, some of them may choose to work and we probably should make it as easy as possible for them to work if that is what they choose to do.

This is the demographic crunch that Canada is facing. If we do not do more to address the needs of that growing segment of the population, including myself, who are going to be over age 65 by 2031, and from the member for York West's statistics, 10.9 million over age 65 by 2036, then we will have a significant problem.

The time to address that is now, both for those who have a specific and urgent need, those who are hurting right now because there has not been sufficient legislation, but also for the many other Canadians who do not even realize that they are going to have a problem, who do not understand that their retirement is in severe jeopardy.

Those Canadians are going to be going to their members of Parliament in 20 years and saying, “I did not know. I was not aware. Nobody told me that we had this problem.”

We could say in the bill that we should increase the guaranteed income supplement, but then it cannot be enacted. It would require the royal recommendation that so many Canadians go to bed thinking about every night. It simply cannot make a difference.

We either come to this place to make a point or we come here to make a difference. Bill C-574 makes a difference and I want to commend the member for York West for her hard and diligent work on behalf of Canadians.

Royal Recommendation—Bill C-501
Points of Order
Oral Questions

May 11th, 2010 / 3:10 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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-501, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (pension protection).

Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that its provisions to require the Minister of Labour to appoint an adjudicator to hear and adjudicate claims would require new government spending and therefore would require a royal recommendation.

Page 834 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

—a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered.

Bill C-501 would amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act so that the unfunded pension plan liabilities would be accorded the status of secured debts in the event of bankruptcy.

The bill would also amend the Canada Business Corporations Act to provide for a procedure by which former employees of a bankrupt corporation who were owed amounts by the corporation could proceed with claims against its directors. That procedure is set out in clause 6, which would require the Minister of Labour to appoint an adjudicator to hear and adjudicate claims and would set out the powers and functions of the proposed adjudicator. Section 23 of the Interpretation Act makes it clear that the power to appoint also includes the power to pay.

The requirement for a royal recommendation for a new officer of the Crown is made clear in the Speaker's ruling of November 9, 1978, which states, “If this bill is to impose a new duty on the officers of the Crown, these objectives will necessitate expenditures of a nature which would require the financial initiative of the Crown”.

On September 19, 2006, in the case of Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad, the Speaker ruled on the need for a royal recommendation for the creation of an advisory committee that:

—the establishment of the advisory committee for international development cooperation provided for in clause 6 clearly would require the expenditure of public funds...

On February 11, 2008, in the case of Bill C-474 provisions, for the appointment of representatives for an advisory council, the Speaker ruled that this required a royal recommendation:

Clause 7 of the bill provides for the governor in council to appoint 25 representatives to the advisory council....As the provision in Bill C-474 is such that the governor in council could choose to pay a salary to these representatives, this involves an appropriation of a part of the public revenue and should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

These precedents also apply to Bill C-501. As I have mentioned, the bill's proposal to appoint an adjudicator would increase government spending for a new purpose and therefore must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

March 11th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Speech from the Throne.

I want to acknowledge the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation who just spoke. In the time I have been a member of Parliament since 2004, he has been a distinguished and productive member of Parliament for his constituents. I wish him well as he moves along.

I am going to split my time with the very distinguished and capable hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. In a second I am going to address a question she just asked, but first, I hope members will indulge me.

We are all very proud of the Olympics. First of all, in my province of Nova Scotia, we have two winter Olympians who are both from my riding. Members may have heard of one of them, Mr. Sidney Crosby, the world's greatest hockey player.

I would suggest that if anyone is looking for role models, we have some great young athletes from Nova Scotia, people like the young Brad Cuzner, who played last night for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who won in overtime against the Saint John Sea Dogs. Brad Cuzner stood up for his teammates.

It is guys like him who look up to someone like Sidney Crosby. People could not pick a better role model than Sidney Crosby. Last year he brought the Stanley Cup to Cole Harbour. Tens of thousands of people lined up to see him, and he took so much time with them.

I also want to mention our other Olympian from Dartmouth, Sarah Conrad, a freestyle snowboarder. The people in Dartmouth are so proud of Sarah. They have followed her progress. The night she competed, which I think was February 19, a crowd gathered at Dave Doolittle's pub in Dartmouth, people like Andrew Younger, the MLA for Dartmouth East; and Darren Fisher, the councillor and a big supporter of Sarah; and many of her friends.

Sarah did not win a medal that day, but she did exemplify the spirit of the Olympics. She blogged that night, and I am going to read a little of what she wrote. After competing in the Olympics and not doing as well as she had wanted, she wrote:

It just wasn't my night, sorry folks. I wasn't quite comfortable in practice and it showed in my runs. Luckily I squeaked through to semis, but fell both runs so no finals for me. I'm disappointed in my riding, but overall we had great night.

She went on to write:

It didn't really matter to me who made it through, I was just relieved that the amazing crowd had a Canadian to cheer for in the finals.

She added:

The support from across the country has been amazing, it means so much. I hope you enjoyed the show, I know I did.

I can say on behalf of the people of Dartmouth and Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and across the country, that Sarah did great and we are all very proud of her. She came first last year at the Canadian nationals in Mont-Tremblant.

Now I want to talk a little bit about the Speech from the Throne in the time I have left. I want to talk about a few things that in my view were missing from the Speech from the Throne.

The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl has mentioned the issue of poverty. This is an issue that matters deeply to many Canadians. We in Canada are coming out of a very difficult time. We have been in a recession. Perhaps the biggest problem and one of the great paradoxes of coming out of this recession is that the stimulus program the government put forward did not, by and large, benefit people who needed help the most. The real problem is that the cuts being made to pay for the stimulus program may target the people who need help the most. I think that is a real problem.

The human resources committee of the House of Commons is undertaking a poverty study now. It had been under the distinguished chairmanship of the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, and is now being chaired by the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar. I am sure she will be a fine chair.

The committee has looked at the issue of poverty for some time now, for close to two years. We have a housing crisis in Canada. It is not solved by a little burst of money coming from infrastructure; it needs a long-term, sustained national housing policy. We have not seen that yet.

There is child poverty in Canada. As I am sure members would know that last year, on the 20th anniversary of the pledge of parliamentarians to eliminate child poverty by 2000, Campaign 2000 put out some information that should be a real wake-up call and challenge to Canadians that we need to do something about child poverty and poverty in general.

Yes, we have made strides, and some areas have improved. The guaranteed income supplement, the OAS, and the previous Liberal government's successful focus on and success in ensuring the Canada pension plan have done a lot to reduce seniors' poverty, but there is still seniors' poverty that is really very problematic.

Single people in poverty, particularly women, is a huge issue. We should be putting more into the guaranteed income supplement. We should be doing more to secure pensions. We need to focus on health care, palliative care, home care, and all those things that would help with seniors' poverty. Moreover, children's poverty is still a huge problem for a country as wealthy as Canada. We need to do more.

As a country, we need to embrace an anti-poverty strategy. Six provinces have now committed to an anti-poverty strategy, with varying degrees of robustness. In my province of Nova Scotia, the strategy is not very strong, but I am hoping it will become stronger. The provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba all have a strategy. However, they all say the same thing: they need the feds to step up.

The issue of child care continues to be one on which Canada does embarrassingly poorly. Just over a year ago, the United Nations published a report on the OECD nations that measured how different countries fared on 10 different benchmarks of early childhood services. Those included subsidies for regulated child care services and subsidies for accredited early education services and the training of child care staff. In that survey, Canada came last out of 25 nations.

As one would expect, we were well behind the Scandinavian countries who have invested in early learning and child care in a variety of ways. However, we were also behind Hungary, Slovenia, the U.K., the U.S., Korea, Portugal and many other countries. For a country of Canada's relative wealth and one that I would suggest is going be more dependent than ever on educating our children, we have been a very fortunate nation.

We have been very wealthy. We are a large country with a population strewn largely across our southern border. We are a country that is rich in natural resources. We have not had world wars fought on our land. We do not have the kinds of natural disasters that some other countries do, as seen recently in Haiti and Chile. We have done well, in some cases more by accident than design.

However, we are now facing competition. Countries that used to send their students to us are now educating their own children. Countries that did not invest in innovation and research or child care are doing better than we are. That is a real danger to this country, because the most important resources we have are not the natural resources of our land, but the resources in our classrooms. It is the kids, and it is the adults who need help with literacy.

Our literacy rates in Canada are not good at all. We have some nine million adult Canadians who do not have the literacy skills they need. Four out of ten adult Canadians, representing nine million Canadians, struggle with low literacy. They fall below level three on the literacy scale. These figures are from ABC Canada. We need to invest in literacy for adults who do not have the skills they need to upgrade their own jobs.

A gentleman came to see me a while back. We all meet with people in our constituencies whose stories quite often touch us. This man came to see me and told me that he had worked really hard to get where he was. He did not have a great job, but he could raise his children. He now had an opportunity to improve himself and apply for another job. The problem was that he had to do a test. He could not pass the test and he was worried that he would lose the job he had.

It is people like that, Canadians who want to make themselves better and stronger and more able to provide for their families, who are the kind of people the Government of Canada should be working with. Yet when the government was elected, we saw cuts to our literacy programs. That just does not make any sense. That is not in keeping with a country that is looking forward and saying that it wants to invest in its people. If we are going to invest in our people, it means investing in early learning and child care.

I would suggest as a parent, and I think everybody in the House knows, that children do not start learning at the age of six. Children start learning as soon as they are born, and perhaps even before that. They start learning right away and those first years are really important. Yet there are people across the country who do not have access to child care. The universal child care benefit is not enough; it does not pay for early learning and child care and it does not produce child care spaces.

I would suggest that if any one of us heard of a child in second grade who could not find a public school to go to, who was turned away from a public school and told there were no spaces, there would be an outcry. Any one of us would be offended by that, yet every day in every part of this country kids under the age of six are turned away or put on long waiting lists and do not get the early learning and child care they need.

If we are going to invest in our children, we have to invest in early learning and child care. It is so important. That does not diminish the role of parents in any way, shape or form. I think all of us would say that the best teachers of our children are ourselves, our wives and perhaps a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle. However, many people simply do not have that. We are saying to them that there is nothing for them. In many parts of this country, there are no spaces and if there are spaces, people cannot afford them. We have to do better if we are going to make a serious difference.

I will quote part of the Speech from the Throne that I thought was interesting. It spoke about Canadian families balancing work and family life and said:

our Government introduced the Universal Child Care Benefit....

It went on to say:

Our government will strengthen this benefit for sole-support, single-parent families.

I thought last week when I saw that in the Speech from the Throne that the UCCB was not the right way to look at child care in the country. However, no one thinks there are no parents who need the money, so I thought, okay, maybe the government is going to look at the universal child care benefit and strengthen it, and maybe go to $200, $300, $400, or $500 a month for those parents who actually need help the most. The very next day in the budget the government talked about changing the taxation part of the UCCB. I want to read what it said:

It is estimated that this change will reduce federal revenues by a small amount in 2009-10, $5 million in 2010-11 and $5 million in 2011-12.

Hence, $5 million dollars is the total contribution and the maximum anybody can get is $168 a year. That is hardly anything. We just have $5 million for single parent families versus $100 million for the government's advertising expenses for its economic action plan. There are many other things that we could juxtapose with that $5 million. By any measure, $5 million is a very small amount, particularly when one looks at the need across this country. We need to address those issues.

I also want to speak to international development. Canada has made commitments in international development. I would personally like to see us get to 0.7%, which has been the target that some countries have achieved for international development assistance. In the last number of years, we have seen the government change the way that international development is done. It has pretty much completely moved away from the continent of Africa, where many people need help the most. In this budget it is proposing a freeze on international development.

It is no surprise that when people were asked about that, their response was that it was a real shame, that it is a real problem for the people who need our help the most. Our aid should not be tied directly and only to trade; our aid should be tied to poverty.

In 2007-08, we had Bill C-293 proposed by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood. The purpose of that bill was to make poverty the focus of our international aid. It seems very self-evident and obvious. The bill was passed, I believe by all parties, in this House, and yet we have seen no indication that it is the focus the government is adopting for its international aid.

Like other members of this House, I have had the opportunity to travel internationally. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Kenya with Results Canada, and we saw amazing poverty. This does not diminish the fact we have poverty in Canada in our own communities, and certainly on reserves among our aboriginal populations, and both need to be attacked.

When somebody says to me to think globally and act locally, we can do both. We can make the world better here and around the world.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

December 7th, 2009 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is ridiculous. The Anglican Church of Canada, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Church, the Lutherans, Development and Peace, and Quakers, are all being branded as subversive because they have the temerity to criticize this Conservative government.

Will the minister immediately restore funding to KAIROS to ensure that Canada's aid dollars are being spent in accordance with Bill C-293 just as these organizations want it done?

December 3rd, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, about a year and a half ago, this House passed unanimously Bill C-293, known as the better aid bill.

Putting a bill through this House and through the other place is a formidable undertaking. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of people getting behind the bill and indeed a lot of witnesses, et cetera. We were very fortunate to have ultimately got the bill through this House unanimously.

The legislation basically contains three commandments. The first commandment is that Canada's official development assistance will be directed to poverty alleviation and only poverty alleviation. The second is that we will take into account the perspectives of the poor. The third is that it be consistent with Canada's international human rights standards. The bill had a reporting period, and the first reporting period due was September 30. However, the government gave early indication that it had absolutely no interest in complying with this legislation.

Members will recollect that in the early part of this year, the government reprofiled Canada's focus on those who receive our aid. It took it from essentially the desperately poor countries in Africa and reprofiled it to some less desperately poor countries in the western hemisphere.

The minister made it abundantly clear that those who trade with us or vote with us will get our aid, but if they do not, they will not. In her speech and her press release there was not a word mentioned about Bill C-293, which ultimately, as I said, got royal assent and is the law of this land. We have a situation where a government absolutely ignores the will of Parliament.

Along comes September and we get the minister's report. Here it is and strangely enough the cover is blue. I wonder why that would be. It references the bill. It references the three things that are in the bill, poverty alleviation, perspectives of the poor and international human rights standards, and then promptly proceeds to ignore the last two, human rights standards and perspectives of the poor. What we have is a bunch of numbers, an accountancy. It is not accountability. It is accountancy.

It is a painful contrast to what British MPs get. British MPs get from DFID, the Department for International Development, a rather substantial package which analyzes how programs and policies are going. British MPs know whether their foreign assistance is effective. We, on the other hand, being Canadian MPs and getting the back of the hand from this particular government, have no idea. In fact, there is not a person in this House who has any idea as to the effectiveness of our aid. There is no metric, no basis on which we can tell whether our aid goes to poverty alleviation, whether the government has taken into account the perspectives of the poor, or whether our aid is consistent with human rights standards.

The government obfuscates. It does anything but account. This is a legacy of the government. It is also a legacy of this bill.

November 30th, 2009 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

You are speaking of the reduction in funding to the provinces through the CHST. There was a corresponding benefit from the provincial point of view—they got less money but they got more control. This was at a time when galloping health care costs were going on. My father was the premier at the time in Nova Scotia, and I'm sure he would attest that this was important.

A number of people have mentioned Libby Davies' bill on housing, Bill C-304. We are supportive of it, and we're hoping we're going to get it through committee. It was going to what is called clause-by-clause, which is the final stage in the committee process. But Libby pulled it back because there were some flaws in it, particularly concerning persons with disabilities. We intend to bring it back to the committee, and I hope it can do something.

Private members' bills can be passed by the House of Commons and become the law of the land, but it doesn't mean anything unless the government actually embraces it. Last year, Bill C-293, the overseas development assistance bill, was going to make alleviating poverty the purpose of international development assistance. That passed and it is the law of the land, but it hasn't made a lot of difference yet.

Anyway, we are hopeful that we'll be dealing with that next week. Maybe we can do something to make a difference. Libby is a strong advocate and probably knows all of you very well. We'll do what we can to make that bill a reality.

Thank you.

International Aid
Oral Questions

October 8th, 2009 / 3 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, study after study has criticized the ineffectiveness of Canada's foreign aid. Hence Parliament last year passed unanimously Bill C-293.

Bill C-293 requires three things: one, that the aid be effective in reducing poverty; two, that it take into account the perspective of the poor; and three, that it be in compliance with international human rights standards.

In the minister's report on the bill deposited last week in the House, she fails to comment on two out of the three criteria.

How could the minister possibly say that she is in compliance with this legislation?

Youth Voluntary Service
Private Members' Business

February 25th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak to the motion. I want to pay tribute to my colleague from Papineau who is new to the House but not new to many Canadians. The motion is entirely in keeping with the work that he has led in Canada, being very involved in Katimavik, and as a leader of young Canadians.

I also want to associate myself with the generous comments from the member for Sault Ste. Marie about the member's father, which is entirely in keeping with the way he does his business here. Pierre Trudeau was a great leader in Canada. One of his great friends was Jacques Hébert. Jacques Hébert was the person who really formed Katimavik and battled for its survival when it was in peril. He was very involved as well in Canada World Youth. These are very noble people who have done a great service to Canada. This motion is in keeping with the work they have done.

I want to congratulate my colleague for the motion. It is one that I am proud to second and support enthusiastically.

The member for Papineau is well known in Canada for his support of young people and their engagement in our country. He understands the incredible benefit to our communities and our country when young people participate and are engaged.

This is the overarching purpose of the motion, to begin the debate about young people and their role in making Canada stronger.

We often hear, as politicians in the public discourse, that young people are not engaged, that they are too busy or perhaps do not care. That is not my experience at all. I would argue that there is a wealth of interest in our young people to understand their communities, their country and the world.

As a member of Parliament, it has been one of my highest priorities to meet young people. I visit schools whenever I can, elementary, junior high and senior high. One of the things I hear most often is this interest in providing service to the country, both for their benefit and, more particular, for the benefit of the country and the world.

I have had the chance to hold youth forums within my responsibilities as critic for human resources, meeting students involved with universities and colleges. The young people I meet, almost without exception, care deeply about their communities, the world around them and understand the importance of solving some of the pressing issues of our time better, in a lot of cases, than the adults around them.

My sister has been very involved with Canada World Youth and Katimavik, but she spent many years for Canada World Youth, another great program that takes kids from Canada and pairs them up with kids from other countries, usually developing countries, to do projects. It is a great building experience for young Canadians. She is now working with WUSC, which is another great organization that does work internationally. She is in Sri Lanka, a country that is torn by all kinds of troubles right now, and doing wonderful work there as well.

I have had the opportunity as a member of Parliament to travel, as most of us have, and I have had the chance to see places where Canada can make a difference. I remember a trip to Kenya with my colleagues from Scarborough—Guildwood, Halifax and Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, where we saw among the poorest people in the world, but we saw Canadians working there, helping out, providing service both to that community, to the world and to themselves.

If people do not think we can make a difference through private members' business and private members' motions, I refer them to my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood who produced Bill C-293, the overseas development act, in the last Parliament and steered it through all the challenges and got it adopted.

We can make a difference here through motions like the one the member for Papineau has proposed and the one the member for Scarborough—Guildwood had adopted in the House and proclaimed last year.

There is great work to be done and my colleague, the member for Papineau, spoke about some of the domestic work.

We can do more in the world, as well, and the overseas part of this is really important. I am a little too young to recall exactly, but I read a lot about the Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, the AmeriCorps of Bill Clinton in the 1990s, the Gap year in the U.K. and in other European countries. It is so important that young people have a chance. They want to be involved. They want to have that opportunity. They want to know how they can help serve their country and serve the larger community.

The response from students is very important, and it is more than most of us would hope for. There is a sense of optimism and a sense that we can make the world better, and the motion before the House, which I encourage everybody to support, will go a long way in helping them to do that.

International Aid
Oral Questions

February 23rd, 2009 / 3 p.m.
See context

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, as the House knows, Bill C-293 falls in line with our priorities for focused, effective and accountable aid. It is based on poverty reduction. The department has been working on implementation, and I can assure the House that we will meet all of its requirements. I will keep the member informed. We are on track to meeting the obligations.

International Aid
Oral Questions

February 23rd, 2009 / 3 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, last May, Bill C-293, calling for proper accountability for Canada's international aid dollars, was given royal assent after receiving full support from all parties in the House.

With the funds recently allocated to the conflict in Sri Lanka, I ask the Minister of International Cooperation, what is CIDA doing to ensure the provisions of this bill are in fact being met, and when can we expect the full integration of this legislation in all of CIDA's aid initiatives?

For those suffering in Sri Lanka and in countries all around the world, it is now time for this bill to be acted upon.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Statements By Members

June 9th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, on May 29, Bill C-293, the better aid bill, received royal assent. It was passed unanimously by the House.

Many people and organizations have been fulsome in their praise for this significant achievement. There are many people to be thanked, especially those who have written, emailed, petitioned, demonstrated, phoned and shown up at MPs offices to voice their support for the bill. It could not have happened without them.

Now the task is to have Canada's official development assistance consistent with the bill. Business as usual is not an option. It is reasonable to expect that ministers and departments will spell out in detail how they expect to adhere to the principles and accountability mechanisms in Bill C-293. The principle and concessional aid should be easily achieved, however, large multinational organizations will require special vigilance. The last thing we want is policy incoherence.

Parliament will be watching.

May 29th, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 29, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 29th day of May, 2008, at 2:38 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila-Marie Cook

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses—Chapter 16; Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad—Chapter 17; Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments)—Chapter 18; and Bill C-459, An Act to establish a Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day and to recognize the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide—Chapter 19.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

May 9th, 2008 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome the opportunity to say a few words in support of what are the very final moments of something historic in terms of this Parliament adopting Bill C-293. I am almost inclined to say almost nothing and quit while I am ahead, because there has been a rare coming together here of a collaborative nature.

There have been a lot of disagreements and a lot of pushing and shoving. I want to be fair here and acknowledge the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Macleod, who set out some very severe reservations about some of the aspects of this bill. I think he is the only parliamentary secretary who ever did actually extend the courtesy of sitting down with me in my office to discuss something. We had some major disagreements and there have been some compromises made.

However, at a time when a lot of the public looks on this place these days with a good deal of consternation and sees the dysfunctionality, the division and the dissension, it has to be a good day for us to come together around what is truly a global commitment, about which I think we feel good as parliamentarians and about which Canadians I think very much feel that we need to work together. It is not always easy to do. We have had to make compromises along the way.

I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, because he picked up the torch and carried it in a very determined way. He, like I, was very grateful for the persistent and consistent support not just from Gerry Barr, an individual who has put his heart and soul into this, but really from the entire NGO community across this country, including campus-based organizations and faith-based organizations that really pushed to make this happen.

We have a lot more work to do, but we will get on with it buoyed by a sense of responsibility and cohesion around this. Let us not forget that it is not just about the effectiveness of aid, but also about increasing our commitment to the level of aid, or we are not going to get the job done.

With those very brief words, uncharacteristically, I want to take my seat and give the last word to the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

May 9th, 2008 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to join with the hon. members who spoke before me in congratulating the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood on his excellent work, perseverance and tenacity. He knows he can count on the Bloc Québécois to support the Senate amendments. This motion gives us an opportunity to debate them.

The Bloc Québécois has done serious and thorough work, as the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood mentioned in his presentation shortly before I took the floor. We are in favour of this bill that is still quite useful even though some of the amendments we proposed in the process were rejected. The important thing is that the substance of the bill is still very relevant and it is a firm step in the right direction.

The Senate amendments under consideration today are minor; they clarify certain provisions of the legislation. Let us look at them together.

For example, the Senate is proposing that the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness be respected. It is also proposing that “competent minister” means:

The Minister of International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance or any other minister who is providing official development assistance.

The Senate also proposes that:

The competent minister shall consult with governments, international agencies and Canadian civil society organizations at least once every two years, and shall take their views and recommendations into consideration when forming an opinion.

The last Senate amendment reads:

Information shall not be reported under this section if its disclosure is prohibited by the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions.

In our eyes, these are truly minor amendments that, as I was saying earlier, clarify certain provisions of the legislation. We are intent on passing this bill and will therefore maintain our support for it.

I would like to remind those watching us on television of the content of this bill introduced by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

This bill would ensure official development assistance with the very specific goal of reducing poverty. It would also require that CIDA, when providing assistance, be respectful of the target environments. This is a very important element.

In fact, once this proposed bill is put into action, the government will have to consult civil society organizations, governments and international agencies to ensure that our proposals actually respond to the major needs of the people we want to help.

This bill is very interesting because it guarantees transparency in the activities of the department responsible for international cooperation. It requires that at the end of each fiscal year the minister produce a report containing a summary of the development assistance projects, advisory committee reports and CIDA's performance report. The minister is also required to issue a statistical report on the disbursement of development assistance.

As I said earlier, we had some reservations, but we support the main objective and the fundamental purpose of the bill, which is to reduce world poverty through development assistance. However, we must condemn the current lack of resources provided to CIDA. We hope that once this bill has been passed, the government will truly keep its promises and increase funding for this important agency.

Specifically, this bill sets out criteria respecting resource allocation to international development agencies and enhances transparency in development assistance. It states that poverty reduction is the central focus of development assistance, and it takes into account the perspectives of the poor.

Assistance must also be consistent with international human rights standards. The bill also states that the minister shall consult with governments, agencies and civil society organizations. What is interesting and important to note is that, at the end of each fiscal year, the minister must provide a summary of the development assistance projects, present a comprehensive report on CIDA's performance, and present a statistical report on the disbursement of development assistance.

It is easy to see the connection with the UN's millennium development goals. As a reminder, the eight objectives are to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce female mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

Bill C-293 covers two of these eight points, which we think is a step in the right direction.

One way or another, all of the millennium goals are related to poverty. We must not forget that poverty is often the result of social and economic inequality in a given country. As I said, this bill is a step in the right direction. It sets criteria for official development assistance and ensures that it targets poverty reduction. Because of that, we support the bill.

Moreover, as one of the richest countries in the world, Canada must do everything it can to help citizens of poor countries escape their poverty. Doing nothing would be both immoral and unacceptable.

In closing, I would like, once again, to congratulate the member for Scarborough—Guildwood on his work. I also appreciate his thanks to the opposition for having helped him achieve the goal of getting his bill passed so that it can come into force to reduce poverty and help other countries that really need help.

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

May 9th, 2008 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. friend from Scarborough—Guildwood, first of all for his tenacity and for putting up with the hours that we spent together dealing with Bill C-293. I am not ashamed to say that there were concerns that I held with the original form of this piece of legislation, and I will refer to those later, but I do congratulate the hon. member for putting up with my arguments and my encouragement for him to accept amendments that I personally and some of my colleagues on this side of the House thought would make it a more effective bill.

I am encouraged to see that we are addressing this matter of very serious concern to all Canadians and to many people living in poor countries around the world. I am sure the thoughts of all members are with those in Burma specifically today, in light of the tragedy that is unfolding there.

Private member's Bill C-293, an act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad, was introduced in the House of Commons on May 17, 2006. The intent of the bill is and always was consistent with the priorities of this government, especially the priorities of poverty reduction and the promotion of human rights.

The proposed amendments to Bill C-293 address most of the government's stated concerns regarding clarity of mandate, strengthened accountability and greater aid effectiveness. The proposed amendments address our main concerns and make the bill even better. They also provide consistency with the government's three point plan for aid effectiveness.

The result of these amendments will be legislation that strengthens the aid program and adds a useful tool to Canada's efforts to reduce poverty, as well as improve living standards for families and communities in the harshest regions of the world.

This government has made it clear that poverty reduction is the overarching purpose of our international development assistance in poor countries, places where Canada can and is able to make a difference in the lives of people who just need a helping hand. There should be no doubt that poverty reduction is central to all of our international development assistance efforts, and while Canadians are eager to help the poorest of the poor, they want reassurances that their tax dollars are making a real difference in the lives of the people that they are intended to help.

Canadians have told us that they want their government to lead by example in the area of international assistance by delivering on its promises, ensuring aid is effective, and implementing innovative approaches to development cooperation. In response, this government has been working to improve aid effectiveness through greater focus, efficiency, accountability and results.

The government has demonstrated this through a concrete three point plan for aid effectiveness, which is helping to transform how Canada delivers aid around the world and which represents a commitment to greater results and accountability.

Budgets 2007 and 2008 laid out details of this plan to meet Canadians' expectations by establishing a clear direction for Canada's international assistance. The plan concentrates on three important areas: strengthening focus, so that our development assistance to other countries is consistent with our foreign policy objectives; improving the efficiency of Canadian aid, to reduce administrative costs and improve overseas field presence to areas where we can get better mileage for our aid dollars; and most important, building in greater accountability.

For Canadian taxpayers to understand and support Canada's effective role in international development assistance, they need to be reassured that we are committed to using tools such as independent evaluations and objective assessments that help achieve results and communicate these results to Canadians.

In this way the government has begun to transform the way we deliver aid around the world. In doing so, the government has increased engagement in the Americas. It is doubling assistance to the Caribbean. It has increased presence and resources in fragile states like Afghanistan and Haiti.

In the last two years the government has made significant progress in reforming Canada's international assistance and shaping it to meet new priorities. We have undertaken long term commitments to Afghanistan and Haiti.

As our Prime Minister has announced previously, we are re-engaging Canada in the Americas and doubling our assistance to the Caribbean. In addition, we are ensuring that Canada is meeting its G-8 commitment to Africa.

The government's commitment to the most vulnerable was most recently demonstrated by our response to the current food crisis. We allocated substantial new funding for food aid to help those most in need. Canada has maximized the effectiveness of this contribution by untying restrictions on food aid procurement.

I want to pause for a moment to emphasize what an important step this is. From consultations with members across the aisle, and with the industry leaders in the agricultural community, this was a non-political, non-partisan measure. It will result in saved lives and it is the right thing to do. It is an example of this government making Parliament work and I am proud of it.

This has provided the World Food Programme and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank with the flexibility to procure food commodities from all countries, especially from developing countries. By removing these restrictions, Canada is promoting the growth of local and regional markets in developing countries. This will contribute to longer term solutions to the problem of world hunger.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that removing the restrictions is just one way whereby the Government of Canada is demonstrating that we are serious about working efficiently and effectively, while taking into account the needs and the perspectives of the poor.

After working a great deal on this file with colleagues, and especially with my friend from Scarborough—Guildwood, I recognize our discussions were not always as pleasant as one would like, and could have even been extremely frustrating if we had not moved forward with this process. However, I thank my friend for his hard work on this file and congratulate the Minister of International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of International Trade for their willingness to show leadership on this very important file.