Mr. Speaker, I know we have spent a lot of time speaking to the budget's effects domestically within Canada and what it will do to Canadians, good or bad, but I would like to spend a few minutes discussing what will happen to Canada's image overseas; to our own image of helping other people who are in desperate need and who are dispossessed.
I am aware that international co-operation is a contentious issue right now as we look through the budget and at what is going on. However, I am more interested in the future rather than debating the decisions that have happened in the past. I am very much aware that CIDA has decided that it wants to focus on three areas: health, education and food. I am not so much against that idea, as those things are very necessary, but I wonder where the money will come from to be able to do it.
I have looked on in concern as CIDA has continued to narrow down its funding programs in such a way that, as it focuses on those three things, many other things are not getting done. I think that is a concern.
I think it is also a great concern, not just for people in Canada but also various multinational groups and others overseas, that CIDA has had its budget frozen for the next five years. It is not only that. It is also the fact that that represents almost a full 25% of the deficit reduction that will be going on over the course of the next five years.
My concern about that is that as the needs grow and as our other partners around the world, Britain, the United States, Norway, the United Nations, Brazil, China and other countries, begin to ramp up their international co-operation dollars, we are actually in a situation where we will fall behind. That does concern me.
I do not want to pick fights over the particular decisions that are made. My concern is that as the rest of the world moves forward, even in very difficult economic times, groups, like the Government of the United Kingdom, Britain, have decided that, in spite of their own massive deficits and the deficit cutting that they will do, they will still reach 0.7 of GDP by the end of their mandate. I think that is significant.
It is also significant that Norway and other Scandinavian countries are up at 0.9. It is interesting that the Obama administration wants to claw its way to 0.7 as well. We know that Brazil has signed on and that it is becoming an economic powerhouse. It will reach its 0.7 budget, which is significant because Canada, by freezing our aid dollars, will fall down below 0.3. I do not think any of us really expected or wanted that but it will happen. It is happening at a time when we all, as advanced nations, decided in 2005, in Gleneagles, Scotland, to sign on to the millennium development goals. Up until that time, poverty was just a dog's breakfast. It was all over the place. Nobody knew quite how to attack it. Nations were running on all sorts of different cylinders.
However, the leaders of the industrialized world at that time decided that the time had come to pull it all together, to come up with some major themes in which all the major countries of the world could come together.
I want to mention briefly what was agreed to in Gleneagles, Scotland. It was agreed to end poverty and hunger; to have universal education and gender equality; child health; maternal health; combat HIV-AIDS; environmental sustainability; and global partnership.
Those are very important goals and, as we saw this past September at the millennium development goals summit at the United Nations, we are failing. I want to commend the government for its own actions around child and maternal health. The fact that it attempted to show leadership in that area is a good thing, but we need to back that up with the funds that would help us get to that point.
It is also important that as a government we did not sign on to child and maternal health nor to the global fund. We also did not sign on to environmental sustainability. We signed on to global partnership which allows people in developing worlds to take more part in the allocation of aid dollars and in what needs to be done.
In universal education, Canada has done a very good job, even under the present government for a number of years, of keeping our levels high in universal education but now they are beginning to dip. The Government of Canada is freezing its budget at the same time that others, equally oppressed by very difficult times, are deciding to move ahead anyway and do their best to fulfill the millennium development goals.
Why is it that we are being presented with a budget like this and debating it, which is a really good thing, that we have opted to do this at a time when other countries, which are far more financially stressed than we are, are opting to go ahead? Once again I would remind the House of Great Britain and all the strains that it is under. Even its coalition that came together has decided that it will stick together and stick to 0.7.
Some great things are coming out. When I look at Haiti, I think about the 200 people who have died as a result of the cholera outbreak. The whole island was wiped out and it needs rebuilding and rebuilding is going to take funds. The Government of Canada matched funds with Canadians in a strong response to Haiti. However, Bill Clinton told me in New York that it will be a 20 year project. If in the first five years of that project, CIDA has frozen its budget, I do not see how we will get there.
I would like to talk a bit about Sudan. People know about my own particular interest in Sudan. Sudan will be signing a referendum in January of this coming year. That is only two months away. Many of us will be there as that is going on. South Sudan will be the world's newest country. I realize that CIDA has said that it will put money toward food, and that is important. I also realize that the Government of Canada has given $800 million to Sudan since it came to power in 2006. There is nothing wrong with that. That is important. Sudan has stayed a country of focus for both the previous government and the current government.
Our problem comes with the World Food Programme report that now says that food assistance has more than quadrupled from 1 million to 4.3 million people in South Sudan in 2010 who will need help. How do we help them if we have frozen the budget? I do not understand.
I spoke with southern Sudanese officials just this past week and they are greatly worried about the two million people who will come back in massive migrations from all sorts of countries around Sudan and swell over the villages that are already there. The health concerns are major. Although CIDA has said that health is a major concern, how will we meet those needs if we have frozen the budget? There are other things as well.
When it comes to Sudan, it is important to realize that both the previous government and the current government made serious commitments to the people of south Sudan and to the country of Sudan as a whole. Many of us in the House will be there to watch the referendum signing ceremony. In the years following that, what are we going to do with the two to three to four million people who have visited Sudan and have decided to stay? How can CIDA possibly keep Sudan as a country of focus if its budget is frozen? I am concerned about that.
There is Congo. The Globe and Mail had a good article last week saying that the Canadian government had a very unique opportunity to go into Congo and help to stabilize that region because of our bilingual nature, the training of our troops and the excellence of our CIDA people. However, It will not happen, in part because we have not made that commitment. Where will CIDA's money come from if it enters into the massive problems in that region?
We have some serious thinking to do. If this budget has been cut by 25% to just CIDA alone and we are part of a worldwide scope to try reach out to these countries of the world and help stabilize them, how will we do that if we are suddenly frozen and we fall below 0.3 when our other partners are moving toward 0.7?
These are serious issues and I am worried. I do not want to pick fights about what should have been done about KAIROS. Those are for another day and another time. I just want to talk in broad strokes. What will we do as a nation if our budget is frozen?
This is an important issue for members of the House and for Canadians. According to a recent poll, 77% of Canadians think it is important for Canada to be known as a world leader in funding solutions and 62% of Canadians think this funding should not be frozen.
The sum of $4.5 billion will be cut from the CIDA budget because the money will be frozen and it will not continue to be increased. What will we do as a nation? How will we answer the world when other countries are looking to us for leadership as part of broader partnerships. Do we tell them that all bets are off? Do we tell them that we have frozen our budget, that they will be left on their own and that we will keep doing what we want to do?
We are part of a global alliance. It is my hope that all of us will look at this budget and realize that one of its fundamental flaws is the fact that our hand of compassion to the world has just been cut off because of our own inability to continue to increase funds for international co-operation.