House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scotia.

Topics

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to discuss Bill C-293 which is much awaited by groups working in the field of international cooperation.

This bill sets out criteria respecting resource allocation to international development agencies and enhances transparency and monitoring of Canada’s international development efforts.

First, I must explain the context surrounding this bill.

In her February 2005 report, the Auditor General of Canada raised a number of questions concerning the management of CIDA. Among other comments, the report set out the following observations: CIDA has sharply increased the use of grants rather than contributions to fund aid projects; a situation that was troubling at the time because, to some degree, CIDA was sacrificing a degree of control and oversight over how recipients spend CIDA funding.

CIDA also makes grants without prior evaluation of needs. CIDA does not audit any in-kind contributions. Of 19 files reviewed, 12 mentioned this type of contribution, but for 11 of those, there was no indication that CIDA had done any analysis to determine their real value.

In addition, only 3 of 19 agreements audited noted that CIDA had considered the cost elements of the project, in order to verify that there was no provision for profit by the recipient. Finally, according to the Auditor General, CIDA needed to strengthen its current practices concerning audit adjustments, because it was possible that the agency was reimbursing unauthorized expenditures. These criticisms by the Auditor General made it clear that there were a number of shortcomings in CIDA’s accountability and transparency.

This bill contains two important elements. First, it defines development assistance and second, it defines the framework for providing such assistance.

Development assistance must first contribute to a reduction in poverty. It must also take account of the opinions of the poor. It must be compatible with international standards of human rights and it must, necessarily and absolutely, include mechanisms for consultation and the production of reports that are available to every citizen.

That means that in order to contribute to a reduction of poverty, the government must calculate its official development assistance budget by taking into account only the criteria that are defined in this bill.

As for the reduction of poverty, certainly over the past 25 years we have witnessed a significant decline in world poverty. With the appearance of new economic powers such as China and India, thousands of people have got out of their impoverished state and have been able to access education, live as equals and satisfy their hunger. It remains, however, that the situation has also worsened in some other countries, and that we are still far from a world in which everyone has enough to eat and the infant mortality rate is comparable to rates in the western world.

In 2005, the then Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, published a report in which he indicated his intention to strengthen the UN. His three major themes were: the freedom from want, the freedom from fear and the freedom to live in dignity. This was a program that demanded fundamental reforms of the organization itself, notably the expansion of the Security Council.

With regard to the main points of this bill, the Bloc Québécois supported Kofi Annan's plan to implement measures that would enable all peoples of the world to live free of want, that is, to make the right to development a reality for everyone and to free all humanity from want.

In Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency’s goal is to support the efforts of developing countries to improve their social and economic prospects.

Also, it is written on the CIDA site that its mandate is to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world.

The Bloc Québécois totally agrees with CIDA that it should reduce poverty in the world. We also share the idea that this should take place in a context of sustainable development. Canada, through its development assistance, must ensure sustainability for the local population. It would be too easy to adopt solutions that produce immediate results but that would be sources of problems for future generations.

This being said, the wording of the bill left us a bit puzzled during second reading. The bill says, in clause 2:

—that all Canadian development assistance abroad is provided with a central focus on poverty reduction—

We would have liked the bill to contain a provision broadening as much as possible the meaning of the word “poverty”. What meaning do we give to the struggle against poverty in development assistance? We believe that the reduction of poverty must also include its underlying factors.

Poverty is not only a matter of money, it is also a social issue. That is why we think that the UN’s millennium goals are the frame of reference that would enable us to better identify the work required to actually alleviate poverty.

There are eight millennium goals: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce female mortality ; improve maternal health; combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. Only two of those eight goals appear in the bill: eradicating poverty and sustainable development.

Although the millennium goals are all related to poverty, we believe we have to go much farther. For example, outbreaks of certain diseases are often due to unsanitary conditions, inadequate investment in health and so on. Although they are all connected, the UN goals focus on specific problems and must be addressed independently to enable development in countries that receive Canadian assistance. We must never forget that poverty often results from socio-economic inequalities within a country. In that regard, we submitted an amendment to the committee stipulating that any measures to address poverty take into account the underlying factors, such as health, education and equality. Our amendment was rejected.

I have only two minutes left but I have so much more to say. We support this bill because we think that we need to find out what poor people think. At some point, we will also have to discuss Canadian values. The Bloc Québécois wholeheartedly supports this bill, a bill it helped create. This bill will ensure that official development assistance focuses on reducing poverty. In the current context, where poverty provides fertile ground for terrorism, we must act immediately. We do, however, believe there are other ways to fight terrorism.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that CIDA, in providing assistance, respects the environments in which it is helping people. CIDA will also require the government—and this is very important—to take the opinions of people in the field into account.

We support this bill. We hope that all parliamentarians in this House will vote for it.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this bill before the House today. Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad, is an important piece of legislation. Although it is a private member's bill, I feel quite comfortable in saying that New Democrats will be supporting it.

I also want to acknowledge the tireless work of the member for Halifax. She has spoken passionately about the importance of this bill before the House. In a previous Parliament, she introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-243. I want to acknowledge the very good work done by the member for Halifax on this particular piece of legislation.

Although this bill talks about issues such as looking at accountability and transparency and does not specifically address money, I think there is an important context to this bill. An Embassy article on March 21 talked about the fact that Canada's official development assistance level fell from 0.34% of GNP in 2005 to 0.33% last year. Barring any large changes, that number is expected to drop to 0.32% in 2007.

As the needs are increasing throughout the world, we see that Canada's commitment is actually dropping off. Many of us have supported the 0.7% allocation for aid and we would encourage all members of the House to work hard in that direction.

I want to address a couple of issues about why this private member's bill is so important. I will refer to some of the work that the Stephen Lewis Foundation has been doing. It has been doing a tremendous amount of work around the grandmothers to grandmothers campaign. This highlights the need for this particular piece of legislation. I will read for members from an article from one of the websites:

Sub-Saharan Africa has overwhelming numbers of children orphaned by AIDS--an estimated 15 million, projected to reach 18-20 million by the year 2010. As the death rate accelerates, countries and communities simply cannot cope. They are so impoverished that they're driven over the edge by additional mouths to feed and by the desperate efforts to absorb the orphan children.

Amidst this devastation, grandmothers have stepped into the breach. They bury their own adult children and then look after their grandchildren; often as many as fifteen to twenty kids. Somehow, these unrecognized heroes of Africa hold countries and communities together.

Part of the goal of this grandmothers to grandmothers campaign is to have grandmothers and grandfathers in Canada work to support grandmothers in Africa, who are often the glue that is holding families together. Without these grandmothers, many of these children would simply end up on the streets and eventually die.

This is an effort by a number of groups throughout Canada. I want to talk about one in particular from my own riding in Nanaimo. There is a group called the Nan Go Grannies. The Nan Go Grannies formed after hearing Stephen Lewis speak about the plight of women and children in Africa. They developed a group that came together to do fundraising to help out grandmothers in Africa who are dealing with children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

The Nan Go Grannies have drafted a mission statement that states:

We are moved to act by the generations of people affected: the millions of children who see their mothers die, the mothers who die in extreme poverty without even meagre resources to ease their suffering, and the elderly, often frail grandmothers who shoulder the burden of raising many children despite their own grief and the lack of resources.

Thus, we have an example in my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan of grandmothers coming together to work hard on behalf of the children and grandmothers in Africa.

In addition, my riding also has another project on the go that is supporting people internationally. There is the Malaspina Ghana project, which is a collaboration between Malaspina and two colleges located in Ghana. It is partially supported by CIDA, but in addition, the Malaspina Ghana project is doing fundraising in the community for this initiative.

The purpose of the project is to help reduce poverty in the Sunyani district of Ghana through four community development projects identified by their partners. These include reducing household waste, reducing HIV-AIDS, improving forest fire management, and developing ecotourism.

The intent of this project is to work with partners in Ghana to develop outreach programs and other strategies aimed at providing rural communities with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively address the four project areas described above.

It is these very good local initiatives that are so important in supporting citizens in other countries in their desperate struggles around poverty, sickness and lack of access to clean drinking water. Many of these things have been outlined in the millennium development goals. It is very important that we in Canada continue to support this good work.

I want to talk a bit more about the reality of HIV-AIDS and again about why accountability and transparency are so important in the dollars we are sending overseas. On the grandmothers to grandmothers website, they talk about “key statistics on orphans, grandmothers and HIV-AIDS”.

These are global figures. The number of people living with HIV-AIDS in 2006 was 39.5 million worldwide, and 24.7 million in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of women living with AIDS in 2006 was 17.7 million worldwide, and 13.3 million in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people newly infected with HIV in 2006 was 4.3 million worldwide, and 2.8 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

Those are generations of people that we are losing. In many cases what we are talking about is the hollowing out of the working people. We are talking about losing people between the ages of 18 to 49. In Africa, those are the most productive years of people's lives. Those are the mothers and the fathers, the workers, the farmers and the truck drivers. Africa is losing that entire generation, thus passing on that burden to the grandmothers.

The article goes on to talk about the fact that sub-Saharan Africa has 10% of the world's population but makes up more than 60% of all people living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, approximately 13 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, a higher number than the total of every girl and boy under 18 in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland combined. That figure is expected to reach more than 18 million children by 2010.

According to HelpAge International, older women are the backbone of AIDS care. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, between 40% to 60% of orphans live in grandparent-headed households, with the vast majority of these grandmothers. Over 50% of orphaned children live in grandparent-headed households in Botswana and Malawi and over 60% in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

These are frightening figures. If we can encourage members of this House to support this important piece of private members' business now before the House so we have a quality of life in other countries, so we can say with some confidence that we are completely behind the millennium development goals, and so we are urging this House and all Canadians to support the 0.7%, it would be an important step. We could hold our heads up high in the international community.

As it is, Canada continues to fall behind the goals that have been set by many people in this country, including the make poverty history campaign. I would urge each and every member of this House to support this private member's bill, to say yes and demonstrate that we can be leaders in the international community.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

March 22nd, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate on a very important private member's bill, Bill C-293 sponsored by my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood. I would like to congratulate him for an excellent piece of legislation which I certainly will be supporting. Any time we can bring more accountability and transparency to the Government of Canada, to the Parliament of Canada, that is a very good thing.

I would like to note that one of my constituents, Mr. Sharif Salla, wrote me a note and asked me to support this bill. It is not often that a constituent, at least in my experience, writes in to support a private member's bill, but I will be supporting it for that reason and for a host of other reasons.

The bill sets out what the government should be doing with respect to official development assistance, or overseas development assistance as some people would call it. It states:

Development assistance may be provided only if the competent minister is of the opinion that it (a) contributes to poverty reduction; (b) takes into account the perspectives of the poor; and (c) is consistent with Canada's international human rights obligations.

There is one piece missing. I have spoken to my colleague, but obviously the committee and the House at this point have not considered it a valid argument, but I think it still is. I would add a fourth criteria which would be that the recipient country practises good governance and is committed to the fight against corruption. I think it is a very important point.

The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan talked about the work that Malaspina College is doing with the country of Ghana. Ghana is a country that has committed to the fight against corruption. I had the great pleasure to meet President John Kufuor. Many of my constituents are from Ghana originally. He is an honest man, a good man. It is coming right from the top that Ghana is committed to fighting corruption.

We need to be mindful of that because Canadians and indeed people around the world are sick and tired of sending money to countries only to have the money ripped off by greedy leaders who stash away huge amounts in offshore banking centres or they launder the money domestically and buy votes. We cannot tolerate that any more, where 50¢ dollars that are going into countries for overseas development assistance just are not good enough. The bill goes a long way to bringing more accountability.

One of the criteria is that it contribute to poverty reduction. That is a very noble, very necessary criteria, but it is a vexing question. How can that be measured? The measurement process is very difficult, but it is still an objective that we need to keep in our sights and we need to keep working on.

A few years ago I had the great honour as a member of a subcommittee of the finance committee and the international affairs committee to meet in Washington, D.C. with Robert McNamara who had served as president of the World Bank and of course as secretary of defense in the U.S. government. In his role as president of the World Bank, we asked him how accountable could our Canadian dollars be going through these development organizations, the multilaterals, or even our bilateral assistance, how could we be assured that it was reducing poverty?

That gentleman who was president of the World Bank for seven or eight years said that was a very difficult and challenging question because there are so many other variables. If development assistance goes into a country the next year, there could be flooding, or there could be five years of drought, or there could be a conflict. How do we take out those variables and measure whether the development assistance that went to that country actually reduced poverty or did not? Notwithstanding that, it is an important criteria.

I am somewhat surprised that from time to time when we look at development assistance we do not spend enough attention looking at the question of corruption.

I recently read a book by Jeffrey Sachs who is a special adviser at the United Nations. He advises the UN on how to reach the millennium development goals, which are the goals to reduce poverty worldwide.

In his book, The End of Poverty which is some 300 pages, I looked up the word “corruption” in the index. Sadly, I could not find the word “corruption”. In fact, in his whole book when he talks about development assistance and fighting poverty, there is not one mention of the word “corruption”.

I have had the opportunity over the years to be very involved with the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption. It has 700 members of Parliament worldwide and is represented in around 70 countries. It was actually my colleague across the floor from St. Albert who took the initiative to get this organization going. There is a lot of momentum. We are including more and more parliamentarians around the world, those parliamentarians who are committed to the fight against corruption and are committed to doing something about it.

I would like to put some context to corruption. I did some work, for example, to look at the correlation between poverty and corruption. There is a high level of correlation. It is in the 90% range.

The problem is we know there is a high correlation between poverty and corruption, but we do not really know which comes first, whether the poverty comes first and that drives the corruption, or whether the corruption comes first and that drives the poverty. There is actually no reasonable way to try to come to grips with that and try to deduce that, but we do know there is a high correlation.

I was attending some debates in Europe one time and members of Parliament in Europe were arguing that poverty drives corruption. I think that is true to some extent, particularly at the lower levels of what we call petty corruption, petty bribery, where people have to pay so many rand, rupees or shillings to get a permit to do this, that and the other thing. If the people who are working in those departments are not paid anything, they are expected to take bribes.

When leaders of countries, whether they are elected leaders or officials, are salting away millions and billions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts, I am sorry, this is not driven by poverty; this is driven by greed. I have a few examples of some of the people over the years. This is only a partial list of leaders of countries who have salted away billions of dollars. The amounts are not really in dispute. They are pretty well widely acknowledged.

For example, President Suharto of Indonesia salted away between $15 billion and $35 billion U.S. Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines salted away about $5 billion to $10 billion. Mobutu Sese Seko from Zaire, $5 billion. Sani Abacha from Nigeria, $5 billion. Slobodan Milosevic from Yugoslavia, $1 billion. Mr. Duvalier from Haiti, $300 million to $800 million. Alberto Fujimori, Peru, $600 million. Pavlo Lazarenko from Ukraine, $114 million to $200 million. Arnoldo Aleman from Nicaragua, $100 million. Mr. Estrada from the Philippines, $78 million to $80 million.

If we look at the range of those and total them up, we are looking at a figure of $32 billion to a high of $58 billion. These are just some of the leaders of these countries, impoverished countries I might add, and I will come back to that in a moment. The leaders of those impoverished countries have salted away millions. Interestingly, the list does not include President Daniel arap Moi in Kenya who salted away, it is pretty well acknowledged, $3 billion to $4 billion U.S. Imagine how many hospitals and schools that kind of money would buy in Kenya.

It is estimated that corruption can add 8% to the cost of doing business in a corrupt country. In a country such as the People's Republic of China, it is estimated that corruption accounts for about 15% of GDP.

This is an issue that we have to deal with. I was going to talk about the correlation between poverty and corruption more precisely, but I will not have time to do that.

I would like to think that perhaps my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood would consider a friendly amendment, which would now have to be done in the other place I gather, that would add the good governance criteria to the three criteria that he has in the bill now which are excellent ones. I think we need not delude ourselves that if a country is corrupt and it has no commitment to good governance, we are sending tax dollars into an area where we are making the rich and the corrupt more rich and more corrupt, and we are not really lifting out of poverty the people that are in poverty, those very people that we are trying to reach.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have a very short speech, but first I want to commend the member for Nunavut for her excellent time in the Chair.

This morning members from all parties presented a petition of over 10,000 names supporting this piece of legislation to ensure that aid is delivered effectively. It is for poverty. It takes into account the views of the poor and it fulfills Canada's human rights obligations. When a petition of more than 10,000 signatures from people across the country is tabled by all the parties, it really shows the support of the various parties in the House and Canadians.

I commend the member for this initiative and I know he has a lot of support for it across the nation.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, seeing no other members rising, I suppose it falls to me to wind up. This does bring close to the end a long--

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

You would only have the right of reply at report stage if there was unanimous consent of the House.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There is no unanimous consent.

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The recorded division on Motion No. 1 stands deferred.

The question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.