Evidence of meeting #41 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michelle Doucet  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office
  • Bill Pentney  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultations, Privy Council Office
  • Marc Bélisle  Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Planning Division, Privy Council Office
  • Greta Bossenmaier  Senior Executive Vice-President, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Arun Thangaraj  Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency
  • Julia Hill  Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Well, you're quite entertaining. You're always welcome here, John. Thank you.

Next is Mr. Peter Braid.

You have five minutes, Peter.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ms. Bossenmaier, to you and your colleagues for being here today.

I want to begin by reiterating some of the remarks of my colleague Ms. Block, who spoke about the significant positive impact that our government's maternal and child health program is having on countries and people in the developing world. I have been fortunate enough in the last two years to visit both Ethiopia and South Sudan. In Ethiopia in particular, the focus of my visit was to observe first-hand the very positive impacts these programs are having on the ground for mothers and children.

Here is my first question. You indicated that with respect to maternal and child health, we have 10 countries of focus. I understand that overall CIDA has 20 countries of focus. Could you confirm that and also explain why CIDA has dedicated itself to those particular 20 countries of focus? What are the benefits and advantages of that focus?

5:15 p.m.

Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Julia Hill

Let me ask for clarification to make sure that I have the question correctly. Are you looking for a confirmation that we have 10 countries of focus within which maternal and newborn child health is being done?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

No, I'm looking for confirmation that CIDA has 20 countries of focus overall, and for further elaboration on the purpose of that country list focus and the benefits it brings.

5:15 p.m.

Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Julia Hill

Yes, there are 20 countries of focus.

The objective of establishing countries of focus was to enable us to better concentrate our resources in order to have much more impact. Previously, we could have been involved in more than a hundred countries, and if I can use the analogy, it was a scattershot approach; it was a little more difficult to know that one was actually achieving results.

By focusing on a smaller number of countries using those criteria of need, efficiency, ability to work, and on whether we can actually make a difference and how it fits with Canada's strategic priorities, we're more able to establish a frame that enables us to first of all articulate results for the future and then to measure against them. If you can't name it and you can't measure it, you can't actually be sure that you're making progress.

Within those 20 countries of focus we further concentrated, identifying among them the three thematic priorities that Ms. Bossenmaier mentioned in her opening remarks, to ensure that we knew within each country which thematic priorities we would work within.

There is a connection there, because under the principles of aid effectiveness, of course, there is the notion of harmonization and country ownership. If I think of the country ownership and the harmonization, we had to make sure that what we were seeking to do—which met our criteria within our thematic areas—also met with the recipient country's poverty reduction strategy. They all have something of that ilk themselves. We were looking for that sweet spot wherein everybody's interests coincided and we knew that the recipient government was really behind the initiative; that enabled us to move forward.

The countries of focus are: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Tanzania, Vietnam, Bolivia, the Caribbean region, Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, Peru, and Ukraine.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Thank you.

My second question pertains to the issue of emergency humanitarian crises.

I wanted to understand, when an unexpected crisis occurs—for example, the earthquake in Haiti, floods in Pakistan, and to perhaps a lesser extent, but still to some degree, the food crises in the Horn of Africa or currently in the Sahel—and when the Government of Canada responds to those emergency humanitarian crises by dedicating resources, do those resources come from the annual funding envelope of CIDA?

5:15 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

Our budget has a provision for international humanitarian assistance on an ongoing basis. The difficulty with a humanitarian crisis is that the extent is unpredictable and the extent of the response is unpredictable, so there are two mechanisms. This government has used the matching fund, where Canadians have been asked to donate and where the Government of Canada matches resources provided up to a specific amount. In addition, we use the supplementary estimates process to request additional funds.

In the international assistance envelope there is a mechanism called the crisis pool, where we can request additional funds. In our reference levels we have $50 million, which we can access quickly to respond. If the response required is larger than that, we go to the international assistance envelope and we request money through a Treasury Board submission and the supplementary estimates process.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Thank you.

I appreciate that answer.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Thank you very much.

Next, for the NDP, Raymond Côté.

Raymond, for five minutes, please.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank the witnesses for being available to answer our questions.

I want to talk again about program activities in relation to fragile countries and crisis-affected communities.

In your reply to my colleague Denis Blanchette, you stated that the reduction of approximately $8.5 million involved activities in Afghanistan. There was something else as well. I would like us to examine overall tendencies. There are increases that will benefit low-income countries and middle-income countries, but there is a decrease in the Canadian commitment to development. Why is CIDA increasing funds for the categories I have described, and why is it reducing them for fragile countries and for our commitment to development, with the exception of our commitment in Afghanistan?

5:20 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

As I've stated before, the decrease in fragile countries is due to two factors. Mainly due to Afghanistan, the $6 million of funding, there is a small portion...when we have personnel abroad, we pay the Department of Foreign Affairs a certain amount because we don't have personnel abroad. There is a reduction that's associated with fragile countries.

With Canadian engagement, the reason there's a decrease in the previous main estimates...we had estimated an amount that would be spent for the Office for Democratic Governance. When we looked at our actual spending pattern, we had overestimated what should have been attributed to that program activity. So what you see in these main estimates and the reduction for Canadian engagement is just a reflection of that reduction. It reflects what the actual spending was last year.

When we're estimating what we're spending in future years, it's more reflective of what our actual spending is. It's the same thing for middle-income countries. It's an adjustment that we have internally that reflects spending patterns historically. So when we estimate what we're going to do for the upcoming fiscal year, we have those year-end adjustments.

April 30th, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Very well. Thank you very much.

I attended a conference on the millennium objectives in London. It was pointed out that for its part, Canada had changed its perspective and reduced tied aid considerably. Its commitment in this regard was acknowledged.

However, you say this in your presentation: “CIDA's sustainable economic growth strategy focuses on stimulating lasting, inclusive and sustainable economic growth”. You also refer to creating employment and economic opportunity. I must acknowledge that I may have been a bit hard on one of the groups of witnesses. I had some direct things to say to one individual who represented a large international company and was preaching to developing countries. This individual was asking them to be very welcoming toward foreign investors.

In light of this strategy, I wonder if you will be able to reassure me with regard to CIDA's commitment, and assure me that you will not be asking the countries we want to help to meet objectives that are related to private Canadian investors.

5:20 p.m.

Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Julia Hill

It will be my pleasure to do that. I don't have the French document before me and so I am going to translate this one; it may not be precise.

Our sustainable economic growth strategy has several components. The first is to ensure that the policy and institutions in the country in question are really robust, that they respect the law, that there is political stability, etc.

As for infrastructure, we want it to be solid, but here again, our aid is not linked to Canadian interests. The projects can go forward, and those that offer the best project at the best price will be selected.

We also want to ensure that the workers are well trained. We focus on young people particularly, because not having work causes enormous difficulties for them. This is a very important component.

The role of women is also very central. It must be clear that when it comes to economic development, women must take their place. In February of this year, a conference that was sponsored by the minister focused on sustainable economic development for women in particular.

Then there is agriculture. In developing countries, a large part of production comes from agriculture. Here again, this is not linked to our own agricultural products.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Do I have any time left, Mr. Chair?

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

You're well over time, Raymond, I'm sorry.