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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

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Certainly we'll meet with all organizations, and we do not necessarily select by province. We look to see what we want to do, what subject matter we want to make progress on, and make invitations. A number of Quebec representatives were invited to many of the round tables I have had.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We'll move over to Ms. Brown for seven minutes, please.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for being here today. It's very important that all Canadians have the opportunity to hear about the things Canada is doing with its development dollars.

You know that we've been undertaking a study in this committee on how the private sector can be engaged with our development money to augment what we are doing in developing countries. We're doing some pilot projects right now with some of the mining interests in other countries. There are some who have said that all we're doing is augmenting their corporate social responsibility, but we know that in the work they are doing, the private sector can help make things more efficient.

You talked about making this sustainable for the long run. We have a great example in Burkina Faso. I think it was Chris Eaton who gave us a comment about what WUSC is doing there in cooperation with IAMGOLD.

I wonder if you can tell the committee a little about what's going on with these three pilot projects we've undertaken, and how they are working.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Thank you for the question.

As you know, they were announced in September, so they're at their very initial stages. These are projects that were developed with Canadian organizations. The Canadian organizations then made a proposal and request to CIDA. CIDA was not part of the partnership, which was first developed before they came to CIDA.

Of all the major developing countries, Canada is latest in forming partnerships with the private sector. Other countries—our British, Australian, and American colleagues—have undertaken projects and are increasing those partnerships with the private sector. In fact, it has been noted that Canada is late to the table, and I think we have great opportunity here.

People have noted as well that in order to get a sustainable reduction in poverty.... I'll just quote, as we'll all recognize, Bono, who said, "A lot of people realize that the real way out of poverty is never aid. It's commerce.” Others have said that states with ample resources, strong economic institutions, and good public policies will face the best in the future. Raising people out of poverty means not aid but enabling them to have the opportunity to get good, productive jobs and to increase their family incomes. If you build up a good economy for the country, that's what sustainability is about.

The international community forecast shows there are primarily two major areas for economies of developing countries to grow. They are agriculture and the natural resources sector. In the natural resources sector we're playing a big part, according to the forecast for growth of economies and jobs in those countries. I think Canada has a unique opportunity to have some very good, reputable mining companies and good NGO organizations come together to make sure they are making a difference.

There are the three projects, but we really have to catch up with our other major donors and take advantage of some innovative ideas. As I said, they have expertise in many of the fields. They have innovative approaches, etc., and they want to make a contribution. There are many mining companies, whether they're Canadian or any other country in origin, that are doing their corporate social responsibility.

I was in Mongolia. The mining companies there are contributing to the social development of Mongolia at a higher level than Canada's aid and development program could ever do. Consequently, we want to have them contribute, working with the NGO community, to give us the additional expertise and an additional approach to innovative new ideas on how to ensure we're going to grow the economies and create jobs.

A large proportion of the populations of developing countries are youth. In the future, over 52% of the population in these countries will be youth. We have seen recently what happens when a majority of youth are unemployed: they have nothing to do, nothing constructive, etc., and their alternatives are something that I don't think we as Canadians want them to choose.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Minister, you attended the PDAC convention in Toronto. I think you were a speaker there. I was there very early on the Sunday morning and had the opportunity to walk through the whole convention before the luncheon, and it was amazing to me to see the number of countries that were there, African countries in particular, that know that Canada has an expertise in the extractive industries. They are there really begging Canada to come with the expertise and to create jobs in their countries.

I have another question, if I may. We had three representatives from microfinance here in the first hour of our committee. Could you speak to the issue of microfinance and CIDA's participation?

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Minister, there's just a minute left.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Sorry?

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

There is one minute left.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Can I just make one comment about my encounter and meeting other countries? The ministers of mining actually asked to meet with me. When I visit countries or when I attend conferences, in every case—Honduras, Peru, Mongolia—I ask them how Canada can help, and they say they want to learn about our mining regulations. They want to learn about our public service. They don't want aid; there are many countries helping them with aid. What they want is something they believe Canada can offer to them.

On microfinancing, as you know, Canada is a strong supporter of microfinancing in many countries. There was a recent conference on microfinancing, and one of the experts said that microfinancing has been great. It has been good for job creation. The next step is business growth, because they've got to have businesses that will create jobs. It's a great initiative, but the next step that I think all the donor countries are looking at is how to create jobs and grow businesses.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're going to move back over for the last question of the first round to Mr. Eyking.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Minister, for coming. I've got quite a few questions, and I'll try to get them into my time.

The first question comes out of your estimates here. Under the program activity column, beside the fragile countries and crisis-affected communities, I see an $8 million cut there.

I'm concerned about that cut, especially given the Arab Spring. One of the things we as Canadians are supposed to be doing and are committed to doing is dealing with democracy and capacity-building. When we see countries such as Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt—and also around the corner, of course, there is Syria—what are we going to do if you have all these cuts? How are you going to commit to this region in any substantial way if there's a cut of $8 million?

What's the game plan for Syria? Are you engaged in the diaspora there? Are you helping them out, getting the charitable status? What are you doing with the whole Syria issue?

That's my first question. You've cut $8 million. How are you going to do all that capacity-building and deal with Syria just around the corner?

5 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

I'll ask the president to speak about the $8 million; then I will follow up with Syria.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I have to be quick, because I only have so many minutes. She'll have to be pretty precise.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

I don't think that's a cut in programming, but I'll let the president explain the number for you.

5 p.m.

Margaret Biggs President, Canadian International Development Agency

That's a planning figure, sir, and that number may change. It's a small adjustment. We don't plan.... In our funding for those major fragile states—Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan—we plan to be pretty constant over the next little while.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal 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 Conservative 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 Liberal 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 Conservative 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 Liberal 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 Conservative 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 Liberal 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 Conservative Dean Allison

You have about 15 seconds, Minister.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative 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 Conservative 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.