Evidence of meeting #36 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 cida.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Stephen Brown  Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
  • Khalil Shariff  Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation Canada

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

World Vision is partnering with Barrick Gold in Peru in a project that CIDA is involved in to provide 1,000 families with business opportunities, presumably suppliers to that project.

Everything we do in the world takes risk, but if we're getting a greater benefit—we're getting 1,000 families involved in business, which not only provides them with immediate income but teaches them the long-term skills to continue a sustainable business. We're partnering with an organization like World Vision, which has very high ethical standards.

Is that not a risk worth taking to provide those people with the wherewithal to create those business opportunities and learn those skills for the long term?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Mr. Brown, that's all Mr. Dechert's time, but I will let you answer the question.

4:30 p.m.

Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Brown

I see what your point is, but I'd like to take one step back and say we're not asking if it's worthwhile to train 1,000 people. We're saying if we have a limited amount of money, where is that money best spent? The answer is not clear that it should be spent with World Vision and Barrick Gold in mining-affected communities.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

If you can train 1,000 people as opposed to 100 people by going that route—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

That's all the time we have. That ends the round.

We have committee business after this. If there are any other follow-up questions—we don't have a ton of committee business; I would extend it to.... If it's all right with our witnesses, since they're here already, we can ask a couple of questions.

Mr. Dechert, Mr. Dewar has a question, and then if any Conservatives want to follow up....

May 7th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

I'd be interested in following up, because I think we're getting some interesting points of view here and maybe some juxtapositions that are worthy of our committee.

Mr. Dechert was saying why not, you get this benefit when you have this “partnership”. I think one thing that I find interesting is that if the money were spent somewhere else, we would see perhaps similar or better ripple effects. I say that because the money that is going into these partnerships is predicated on having these operations.

This isn't about looking at where we can do the most good; this is where a Canadian company happens to be operating, and that's where the action is and that's where the money goes. I think it's important to note that, because without a context, we're seemingly just talking about looking at the benefits and at the outcomes.

Mr. Brown, you have made some important points on the fundamentals, and the mission, if you will—we'll call it the mission statement of CIDA and what it is supposed to do. I'm not sure if any other country is going down this path, with the exception—Mr. Eyking, I think had it. We're going down the path with China, because China is one-size-fits-all. The mining companies come in, they build the road, and some think that's the way to go.

Maybe it is, but I missed that debate, if we decided to go that route. I think the frustration for many of us is where this is situated within our international obligations. Where is it situated within good, solid development policy?

That's why I think it's important that the government come clean and say they discussed this, debated this, and their source was...fill in the blank.

We haven't heard that. All we've heard is government announcements, and great pictures, and using NGOs that, let's be frank, have been cut. I don't have to mention the list—Kairos and others that have been cut.

What's the game in town? You go to where the money is.

If we go further down this path...and you were right, let's not go too far on it, but we're not talking about all the money at CIDA, I'll grant you that, and you made that distinction.

The concern about this trend—and if you can cite any development policy or frameworks that you're aware of when the government might have come up with this idea, could you please reference them, because I can't.

4:35 p.m.

Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Brown

I haven't heard any evidence-based argument that has anything to do with improved effectiveness. I haven't heard any rationale cited, other than blanket statements that this is more effective. I'm not aware of any such studies anywhere that say this is a more effective way to do development.

It is a concerning trend, and I'm happy that you brought up the issue of the de-funding of the NGOs. I see this sort of thing as being linked. I see it as part of a silencing of dissent in Canada. I see it as reducing the role of NGOs in development, whereas Canada has signed all sorts of international agreements and proclaimed that NGOs are development actors in their own right.

If you look at government policy documents, they celebrate NGOs for having knowledge that CIDA doesn't have and for being able to operate where CIDA can't operate or doesn't operate as efficiently. But when it comes down to it, the way the funds are allocated does not value the partnerships and knowledge of NGOs. It's based on government-identified priorities, and that process is very opaque. There aren't discussion documents around that.

It is hard to make comparisons and say that the private sector could do this in Peru and make 1,000 jobs, and that's better than another organization that would make only 100. But which other organization would only make 100? We haven't seen any kind of competition of ideas.

There is a competition process for NGOs. It's also very opaque. But these partnerships with mining companies did not even go through that kind of competition. They were fast-tracked straight to the minister's office. They were given more money than was allocated to NGOs that did go through the official process that has official criteria. That is very worrying.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We'll move back over to Mr. Williamson.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Professor Brown, you made a comparison with mainland China. Do you agree with it?

4:40 p.m.

Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Brown

Which one? Do you mean the bundling of aid and non-aid?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

The Canadian policy...and Canadian firms by implication, when they operate overseas, they operate a little differently from Chinese firms.

4:40 p.m.

Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Brown

The Canadian government definitely operates differently. Only now, with these kinds of projects, is it doing the kind of bundling—

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Let me put it this way. Do you think the strategic objective of Canada is the same as it is in mainland China?

4:40 p.m.

Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Brown

I'm sorry, I don't see countries as having one strategic objective.