Evidence of meeting #27 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 clients.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Dale Patterson  Member, Board of Directors, Opportunity International Canada
  • Keith Weaver  Member, Board of Directors, MicroEnsure LLC
  • Larry Reed  Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign
  • Doris Olafsen  Executive Vice-President, Opportunity International Canada
  • Margaret Biggs  President, Canadian International Development Agency

4:25 p.m.

Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Larry Reed

Thank you. That's a very interesting perspective.

I wish the world would divide itself as evenly as for-profit and non-profit, but my experience is that it doesn't. There are some for-profit institutions I've seen that are highly socially motivated and have great impacts on their clients, and there are non-profit institutions I've seen that, in their chase for more funding, have applied some of these practices that are abusive.

There hasn't been enough time to carry out the studies in India to see the difference. The difference that I've heard about is not research-related but rather more anecdotal.

It's complicated in India because the government wants savings to go into state-owned savings banks, and they don't allow many microfinance organizations to take in savings. However, when those institutions that did have a banking licence took in savings, their clients stayed with them and continued paying even when the politicians said they didn't need to pay back their microfinance loans. They knew the money they had borrowed was their neighbour's money, so they wanted to make sure that money went back.

A group that takes in savings also tends to be more conservative in its growth projections, just because it knows it needs to protect the deposits it has on base. It's not losing money that some investor from outside has put in or some donor has put in; this is money in their community that they have to make sure is protected.

The other difference I've heard about anecdotally is that those organizations that invested more in their clients, whether for-profit or non-profit, and had active training programs and group meetings that added value to their clients tended to survive this crisis much better than those that did not invest much in their clients.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you. That's going to be all the time we have. We're going to have to cut it short because we have the minister coming, and I know you'll want to have a chance to ask her questions.

To all our witnesses, thank you very much for spending the time and being here with us today.

With that, I'm going to suspend the meeting so that we can change witnesses. Then we'll go from there. We'll suspend for a couple of minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

I want to welcome everyone back. We have a chance to hear from our minister pursuant to a standing order. I'm not going to go through all the standing orders here, but we welcome the minister.

Minister Oda, thank you very much for being here. We're going to give you 10 minutes. I know we're limited for time; we'll just get started and hopefully we'll get as many questions in as we can before the bells.

I also want to welcome Ms. Biggs, the president of CIDA. She has been here before. Thank you, once again, for being here.

We also welcome Arun Thangaraj, who is the director general for business planning, resources management, and systems with CIDA. Welcome. Thank you very much.

Did you have a question, Madame?

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I'm sorry to interrupt you all, but we think we could go until 5:30 without problems.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Well, let's just see how we're doing for time. We're going to need unanimous consent for that. I'm sure the minister will probably give us a question or two after that, but let's see. We all have to get back to the House. It's a little more difficult than when we were in Centre Block.

We'll just turn it right over to the minister for 10 minutes. We look forward to hearing your comments.

March 14th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, good afternoon. Today I would like to update you on my trip to the Horn of Africa last July, and then to follow with Canada's response to the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa as well as the Sahel region. In addition, we'd like to provide you with information on supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates.

First, I would like to say a few words about our commitment to Africa in order to provide context for our work in the Horn and Sahel.

Over the last few years, there has been significant progress on a number of fronts in Africa.

Some African countries have seen strong policy reforms and increased productivity levels in agriculture and food security. There are now more children in school, particularly girls, than ever before. Canada is committed to Africa and continues to deliver results.

Through support from CIDA, Africa's economies are growing more sustainably. For example, Ghana has had an average agricultural sector growth rate of about 4.3% over recent years, thanks in large part to investments from Canada.

Fostering democracy is another area where Canada's support has yielded results. For example, in Kenya, CIDA is supporting women's rights, promoting women's access to political participation, and supporting judicial reform.

As promised, our government met its G-8 commitment to double our international assistance to Africa. In 2009-10 Africa received more than 50% of CIDA's food aid, 61% of its agricultural support, 63% of CIDA's health support, and nearly 65% of CIDA's bilateral spending on maternal, newborn, and child health.

Of the funding Canada committed as part of our Muskoka initiative on maternal, newborn, and child health, 80% will flow to sub-Saharan Africa. Canada was the first G-8 country to fulfill our commitment in L'Aquila to improve food security and sustainable agriculture.

The African continent is undoubtedly one of those regions with the potential to flourish. But when we look at Africa's potential and development, we cannot ignore the continent's mounting humanitarian needs.

As I speak, an escalating food security and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region in western Africa threatens more than 10 million people. Canada is currently the second-largest country donor to the humanitarian response in the Sahel. Two weeks ago I announced support to improve access to food and nutritional support as well as community-based treatment of acute malnutrition, livelihood support, and access to safe water.

CIDA's support to the World Food Programme alone will help provide more than 7 million people in Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania with life-saving food assistance.

In the meantime, across the continent a combination of factors have plunged the Horn of Africa into a dire humanitarian crisis. Canada responded quickly to meet the needs of millions of people affected by the drought, particularly those suffering from the famine in Somalia. With Canadian support, the World Food Programme and partners are now feeding around 5.2 million people across the Horn of Africa.

In part with CIDA's support, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has also been able to meet the ongoing needs of nearly a million Somali refugees in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

As part of Canada's response to the drought in east Africa, we are requesting $70.4 million in supplementary estimates (C) to meet our July 2011 commitment that the government would match donations by Canadians to the east Africa drought relief fund.

As you know, last July I visited camps in and around Dadaab in northern Kenya to see first-hand the extent of the humanitarian crisis at that time, and I gained a better understanding of what would be needed. Since then, the famine in Somalia has decreased from six regions to three, but the circumstances remain extremely precarious. We are monitoring the situation closely, and Canada remains committed to helping the suffering in this region.

I'll now give just a few remarks regarding supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates for the next fiscal year.

CIDA's supplementary estimates (C) include a proposed increase of $359.4 million to our grants and contributions authorities and an increase of $52,400 to our operating authorities. The increase of $359.4 million to CIDA's grants and contributions authorities consists of several items.

In addition to Canada's fast-start financing commitments under the Copenhagen Accord and our response to the drought in East Africa, CIDA is seeking additional authorities of $100 million for grants to international organizations.

This additional authority does not require additional funds, nor does it obligate CIDA to spend this amount. Rather, it provides CIDA with the ability to address the global requirements for humanitarian assistance in areas such as food and nutrition.

Other items that accounted for the increase in CIDA's budget are transfers to and from other government departments, and we can give you details on those if you require.

We also have an increase of $52,400 for CIDA's operating authorities for the following items: a transfer of $30,000 from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat departmental audit software initiative and $22,400 in increased funding to support the delivery of Canada's fast-start financing commitment under the Copenhagen Accord.

Our budgetary expenditures presented in the main estimates for 2012-13 are $3.4 billion. I can answer any questions on this, and the president can help out with more information on the main estimates as well as the supplementary estimates.

I would like to point out that on the grants and contributions front, some things have gone up while others have gone down.

The increase is the result of the $20.9 million for maternal, newborn, and child health and a $1.5-million transfer from DFAIT for international platform costs.

The decrease comes from transferring $18.4 million to DFAIT for the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and sunsetting $12 million in respect of Canada's commitment to the International Organization of La Francophonie water and sanitation program.

Our report on plans and priorities, which will be tabled in early May, will provide more detail on strategic outcomes and contain information on objectives and initiatives and planned results.

I have left out a few pieces of information, but if there are questions, I think this information will come out in the answers.

Thank you.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you, Minister.

Owing to the tight timeframe, I want to ask the committee to stick to our time.

Ms. Sims, we're going to start with you.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

I want to thank the minister and the staff for coming here to meet with the committee today.

Minister, I hope you will be available to come back again after the budget and after your more detailed report is prepared, so that we can have further discussions.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

I'm available at the committee's request.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Oh, that's delightful.

A big concern that has been coming forward has to do with the shifting focus at CIDA. This shift is leaving smaller and well-established non-profit development agencies behind. They're really feeling left out. In fact, a recent report from the CCIC shows this. After chronic delays under the new partnership branch funding formula, we are now getting a real picture. Good projects are being abandoned half-done, NGOs are laying people off, and partner agencies are being cut.

The new funding formula has also put a chill on public advocacy work, especially in areas that are controversial for the current government or when advocacy is critical of your policies. The most notorious example was when Kairos did not get funding, but we now see that there are many others. This has raised some anxiety in light of our commitment to long-term systemic development to address our key mandate, which is poverty.

Minister, isn't it time to admit that this new competitive bidding process announced in 2010 is pitting NGOs against one another and has frankly been a mess?

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Thank you for the question. It certainly enables me to hopefully be able to give you a full and comprehensive answer on this issue.

Let me first point out that we believe government aid and development is not about organizations; it's about helping people who Canadians want to see helped. It's about making sure that we're making a difference in their lives on a long-term sustainable basis.

In order to do this, we believe that we have to analyze and make sure that we are making our selections on a merit-based process. Consequently, as I say, in terms of sustainability we are actually asking what happens after five years of funding. How is this project, how are the outcomes, and how are the improvements going to be maintained by the local community, by the local leadership in the community, or by the governments that are implicated there?

There is no shift in focus. Since our government took office, we've said that we were going to make our international assistance effective, and effective means making a real difference, a difference that will impact and also maximize the value of our aid dollars. We believe that this is what Canadians want to see. They want to see that people in poverty are not only lifted out of poverty but are also able to stand on their own, and able to stand on their own over the long term.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Madam Minister. I am pleased to see you here today.

Madam Minister, on December 23, you announced some $142 million for new development projects. I am not sure whether you have looked at the statistics and realized that just over 11% of that money goes to Quebec NGOs.

Madam Minister, do you feel that percentage reflects the place of Quebec and of linguistic duality in Canada?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Thank you very much for the question.

Let me first say that I believe that our partners in every province in this country are reputable. They certainly do have a long experience, but again, as I said, we want to make sure that Canadian aid dollars and assistance dollars are going to the best projects.

The uniqueness—which I'm very proud of—that Canada and particularly our Quebec partners are able to offer is the advantage of working in the French language. I think this is one place where we could stand up and directly offer help in Haiti. We saw many partner organizations from Quebec being supported by CIDA to help Haiti with its reconstruction and recovery.

As I said, Madame, we want to make sure that we're providing the support with a people focus: the people who we want to see being helped to go to school, to get better educated, and to get their health care. Consequently, as I say, we support a number of Quebec organizations, but that doesn't necessarily drive the rationale on how the money...the decisions on where the support goes.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Minister. But the outcome remains that only 11% of the funding went to Quebec organizations that can work not only in Haiti, but also in francophone African countries, for example, and all over the world where Canada has a presence.

In fact, Madam Minister, we know that, over the past few months, you have met with many private sector representatives. Yesterday, I met with representatives from the Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI). That is the largest network of development organizations in Quebec. I am sure you are familiar with their work.

Having said that, those people told me that they wanted to meet with you on a number of occasions, but to no avail. Then they wanted to meet with Minister Lebel, Minister Paradis, representatives from Quebec, but they were not able to do so.

Madam Minister, could you make a commitment to devote as much time and energy to Quebec cooperation organizations as you devote to other organizations, such as private companies?

Thank you, Madam Minister.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

Minister, please give a quick answer.