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

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Even though we have more activity and more demand there, do you still think we're going to be committed to it with that number?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Thank you for the question.

What we've learned is that when we start by looking at the number, it's not necessarily the most effective way of looking at how we provide our support and how we place the activities we believe are appropriate.

For example, in Mongolia, when we asked them what they would like us to help with, they asked for public service. We engaged the Canadian public service with the Mongolian public service, and they actually developed public service legislation. The cost of that program, which will make a dramatic difference in the future of Mongolia, was under $400,000.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

However, there's definitely a game plan in place for Syria. Do you have people in place?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Well, I would say there is not a definite game plan for Syria, because nobody knows what will happen as the situation in Syria evolves. As you know, the situation in Syria is not improving. It's not getting any better. The violence is getting worse. The people who are affected are increasing....

The one thing that I would say has improved and where we've made one step forward is that humanitarian organizations that had no access at all into Syria are now able to get into Syria on a sporadic basis. There's no guarantee, there's no corridor, there is no two-hours-a-day access agreement by the Syrian people who are fighting. Consequently we have an increase in the internal and external refugee situation.

Right now what we are focused on is trying to provide the humanitarian aid that's required and making sure that those organizations that can get into Syria are adequately supplied.

March 14th, 2012 / 5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you very much.

My next question is dealing with—and the NDP already alluded to it—how you are approving projects. I think everybody knows that since the last election, the Conservatives have put their ideological spin on who they're going to give money to and who they're not.

We see it with the Canadian mining companies. A lot of taxpayers' money seems to be going to propaganda for these companies, and we don't really know if it's going to reduce poverty; however, projects that are on the table are falling off the table. We know that Kairos has been let go. Now we're coming to your year-end, so all of these groups—hundreds of groups—are coming to us and saying, “Look, we have just been refused for no reason that we know of”.

The Quebec example is pretty blatant. We have the organizations of Quebec aid groups. They have 10,000 volunteers and 2,000 youth, and there are very few approved there.

Minister, I guess the question is the rating process. How are you rating who comes and who doesn't come? I know you've alluded to it already, but there must be a totally different rating system.

Can you tell us what that rating system is? I think you're going to lose a lot of good people, Canadians and NGOs that have been helping. We're going to lose them, and we're going to lose that connection with other countries, especially if you're going from one region in Canada to the other.

I've said a lot there, but at the end of the day, it looks as though the Conservative ideology is stamped on the project approval; however, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt to disclose your rating system.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Let me first say there is no ideology. I think the ideology or the principle on which we make our decisions is the principle on which all Canadians want us to make them: it's to make sure that in international work their hard-earned tax dollars are going to actually reach the people they want to help, do it effectively, and do it on a sustainable basis.

The first thing that Canadians would love to see is more people who can stand on their own without any need for them—that family—to continually have aid, etc., so I would suggest that it's not ideology, but principle. It's good use of taxpayers' dollars. It's also saying we want to really help those—

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Excuse me, Minister, for just a little bit here.

I see no problem with some NGOs not fulfilling a mandate or maybe not spending the money wisely. There are always people who may not have to be reintroduced again, but it's almost unbelievable that so many of these organizations that you've cut out are doing such a bad job and not meeting a mandate for Canadians.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

You have about 15 seconds, Minister.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

I'm going to have to say that Canada has an abundance of very, very good organizations. On the one hand, we're privileged to have so many. On the other hand, we have some decisions that we make. It's not about organizations. It's about what organization and what project will in fact deliver the results.

The rating system is heavily weighted not to the organization or where the organization's head office is, but to the actual project. How many people will be helped? In what way will they be helped? Will this be sustainable? Will it enable that community to stand on its feet? Will it help the government to make sure that the government one day will take over a public health system and a public education system so that every child in that country can go to school, and hopefully go to school at no fee?

This is what we mean by sustainability and ensuring that we make a difference. It's not about organizations. It's about the best projects and the best results and the best use of Canada's aid dollars.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're now going to start our second round. I believe we'll have time for probably two questions. We're going to start with the Conservatives.

Ms. Grewal is first.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Minister, thank you very much for taking your time in coming to our committee. Thank you to the staff as well.

Minister, can you take some time to tell the committee about the results of our ongoing work in Haiti?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Thank you for the question.

As you know, I visited Haiti in January. I would say there is some disappointment because there has been some delay with the political situation and the slow and even more recent events there as far as a government in place.... Most of the projects that we're undertaking we're doing with organizations, so we're not reliant on government. The ministries are continuing the work so that our work can continue, and hopefully we'll find a quick resolution to a new prime minister and a new government in the country of Haiti.

We're doing many projects. One that we support very strongly in Haiti is the school feeding program. The school feeding program is an incentive for families to send their children to school because when children go to school, they get fed a good, nutritious meal every day, and at the end of the week, they also get to take some food home for their families. Consequently, we announced that we are increasing our support for the World Food Programme's school feeding program.

As well, I was there recently in January and announced that Canada will support the resettlement of the families that are in the Champs de Mars national park, and that's ongoing as well.

We've also been able to maintain our support for the health clinics. The incidence of cholera will vary, but they're able to manage that, and there's reduced death as a consequence of cholera.

We continue to do our economic growth, and we now have almost 400,000 who have access to credit and financial systems. We've established a very good program for the farmers, which is a first-time credit system for farmers so that after the earthquake, they're going to be able to buy the tools and the inputs they require to make sure they've got a good restart into their agriculture.

I also went to visit a hospital where we're providing maternal health, prenatal care, and delivery free of cost, and that has increased the health of women through safer births. They're actually following up with postnatal care for their babies as well. We've made a lot of progress, and we continue to keep our commitment to Haiti.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Minister, can you describe some of the limitations when countries have poor legal and informational assistance, such as the basics of government-issued identification, deeds or titles to property, and permanent addresses, etc.? Could you tell us something about that?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

I would suggest to you, continuing on with Haiti, that this has been one of the major barriers to the settlement of people. There was very little land titling in Haiti prior to the earthquake. Any records they had were completely destroyed during the earthquake. What happens now when Canada wants to help resettle is the government allocates some land, and you find there are five people who say they own that land.

The majority of the people in Haiti were renters, not owners. I know that the government is trying to create a titling system, but each one of these plots of land now has to be negotiated with the four or five people who claim they own that piece of land. This is why I would suggest to those who hope and expect to see Haitians resettled that the progress on that has been slower.

However, Canada supported a big program of registration of Haitians. In fact, the Haitians recognized that they can now be registered. Registration is really important, because that's the tool that NGOs use to provide health aid, food aid, and all of this kind of thing. It's a start. It also helped with the elections registration as well, so that was a key program.

It wasn't a high-cost program. It can't be measured in many millions of dollars, but it's a program that's going to make a difference as the country progresses.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Has my time stopped? I would like to pass it on to the floor.