Evidence of meeting #15 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was zinc.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Yvon Bernier  Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins
  • Christina Dendys  Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative
  • Doug Horswill  Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to come and make a presentation. I certainly found all three presentations very informative. It really shows how much of a difference we can make when we work together. Symbiosis occurs when you can get partnerships established.

The first question I have is more one about process. I hope you will bear with me for that. I'm really pleased to see that you have got your commitment from CIDA. As you know, last year CIDA launched a new process for dealing with applications, called “Partnership with Canadians”. That was a new application process for partner groups. I'd just like to hear from you what your experience has been like. For you, Développement international Desjardins especially, you've had your project approved. How did you find this new process?

9:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

We have been cooperating with CIDA for many years now as part of the Canadian partnership. I believe this is our fourth program renewal, as the term of every program is generally four years. To answer your question, I must say we unfortunately renewed our partnership under the old partnership model. That changed a few months after we filed our renewal applications.

However, the new partnership program is being managed under the new rules issued by CIDA. To date, we have had excellent cooperation with CIDA and its managers with regard to the program. As I mentioned, Desjardins has contributed 25%, that is $5 million from the Desjardins fund to support this application to CIDA.

As the new agreement started about eight months ago, we are implementing programs on a number of continents. Every time, we do it in association with national or regional partners because projects often cover a number of countries. Whatever the case may be, I must say that we have had no major problems in the project approval and management process. It's gone in accordance with the rules and everything has been done within the prescribed time periods.

I don't know whether that answers your question.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

It does.

Did you have something to add?

9:25 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

Only that with the Micronutrient Initiative, our funding comes from the multilateral branch, so we don't have the same sort of RFP process to go through. I therefore can't comment. We don't have any funding through the partnership branch.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

Actually, what you've clarified for me is that for the projects you're working on, the funding was under the old system and you have really not had any experience with the new streamlined initiative.

One of the concerns I've had--I was looking for a good-news story, actually--is that, as you know, there was a report done by CCIC, you may not be aware of it, that specifically talks about the impact of this new streamlined approach where a majority of our NGOs are saying they have not heard about their applications yet, approval or disapproval.

What kind of an impact would it have had on your work if your approval under the new process were delayed by eight or nine months and you still did not have approval? What kind of an impact would that have had on the work you do?

9:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

That would have caused a lot of problems. We generally have projects that run over long periods of time. If approval delays are extended, that can have an impact on our partners, for which some activities often require continuity.

I believe that one of DID's development successes is that it had access to this Canadian partnership program, which, over time, has lent some consistency to our actions. We have actions that largely exceed the programming framework of three, four or five years. We are trying a number of ways to keep our partners' support, either through the Canadian partnership or through other interventions, because we are convinced that development takes a certain time, as it does to change behaviour and to acquire skills and competencies. We are doing a lot of work to establish helping relationships which can take various forms, but over long periods.

In this context, I know other Canadian partners that have renewed their partnerships and that are still awaiting an answer for their new programming framework. I believe that most have been cautious and submitted their applications nearly a year in advance. So they've all given themselves some room to manoeuvre. But I think that partners that have not done a good job of planning for the implementation of the new program or for additional delays in the introduction of a new procedure may find it quite difficult to operate.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much for your very honest answer. I think one thing you really clarified for me, which other groups are speaking about as well, is the need for that long-term planning and the need for consistency and for predictability, because this study that was done actually talks about the impact the delayed decisions are having on our international work.

I want to get a couple of things into the record. The delays and accompanying lack of project financing are slowing down or stopping international project work, which has a negative impact on partners and communities in developing countries. Forty-five percent of the group responded that was so for them.

They're also saying it is beginning to have a real impact on their overall budgets. Some of them are having to look at how they run their operations and even having to stop work on projects and start laying off staff. I think one of the most compelling quotes for me was that “the organization is not able to plan for its future”, because, as you said, long-term planning is absolutely a necessity. And there is also the damage this kind of lack of predictability is having on the role and the name of CIDA, which is so revered internationally, and the way people are beginning to look at us. I think for me it is the imperative nature of our living up to our timelines and also of our making those commitments and letting people know.

People are talking about some of their projects being in jeopardy. I'm pleased for you that your project was under the old system and you're able to carry on.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Point of order?

December 6th, 2011 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Point of order, Mr. Chair.

Just to put this on the record, all of those applications are under review by the minister, and there is no agency or organization in Canada that is going to get funding in perpetuity. There is always a need to review what we're doing and to ensure that the taxpayers' money is being well spent.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

I don't think that's a point of order, but when your turn comes up you guys can put that on the record as well.

Your time is up.

We're going to move back over here to Mr. Van Kesteren for seven minutes.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I'll let my colleague put that on the record. I think that is a very important point.

It's a fascinating discussion here, and I'm intrigued to get another angle on some of this nutritional deficiency.

A question comes to mind as you're telling me this. Has this been the case throughout human history? Have people always had a deficiency of zinc, have they always had a deficiency of vitamin A and all the others, or is there another underlying problem?

I say that because we had the health people in, and of course the health accord is coming up, and we have some great dialogue around that. My challenge was that we're talking about the end result. What are we doing right at the beginning? Are we looking to see why we have deficiencies in these areas? Is that part of the scope—and I'm not being critical, because what you're doing is important—or are we putting all of our energy on the result of the problem and not looking at the problem?

Do you understand what I'm getting at?

9:30 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

Christina Dendys

I think so. The best solution to nutritional deficits is a really balanced and healthy multiplicity of foods to eat.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

So what's going on? Are we targeting areas of the world and asking if it is because of war or because of famine, or have these regions always developed people that are deficient in zinc and vitamin A?

9:30 a.m.

Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative

9:30 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

Doug Horswill

One of the things we've come to know is that in parts of China where the intensity of agriculture has gone up substantially even though the diet hasn't changed much—it's either wheat- or rice-based—in both cases the intensity of agriculture depletes the soil of zinc. The consequence of depleted soil is that the grains themselves are depleted in zinc. Let's say the aboriginals on the B.C. coast whose diet was fish are not zinc-deficient because they get enough from their foodstuffs. People in the world whose primary caloric intake comes from grain have had an increased problem with zinc deficiency due to intense agriculture. There may be many other explanations, but that's one we've come to know.