OTTAWA - A 45-year-old federal agency that's spent billions trying to improve the lives of people around the world is being eliminated.
The Canadian International Development Agency will instead be merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Thursday's federal budget announced.
The move finishes something the Conservatives began in 2006, when they remarried the trade and foreign affairs portfolios to emphasize that trade policy was a key part of their foreign affairs agenda.
Now that those departments have adopted CIDA, the family is complete.
"This enhanced alignment of our foreign, development, trade and commercial policies and programs will allow the government to have greater policy coherence on priority issues and will result in greater overall impact of our efforts," the budget document said in explaining the decision.
Rumours of CIDA's demise as a stand-alone department have been circulating in the not-for-profit sector since the agency's aid budget was drastically slashed in the last budget.
Story continues below slideshow
does the merging of CIDA and Foreign Affairs mean the merging John Baird and Julian Fantino? #ohgod #apocalypse #cdnpoli
Canada's foreign aid to be aligned with its trade and commercial priorities. Analysis of CIDA's death: http://t.co/oxX6IeUNIV
Thursday's budget move attracted immediate criticism from aid organizations.
"Canada's foreign policy and trade interests should not compromise the purpose of aid — which is poverty alleviation and human rights," Anthony Scoggins, Oxfam's director of international programs, said in a statement.
"Foreign Affairs is not in the business of reducing poverty. We risk losing the expertise, focus, effectiveness — and results — that CIDA staff brought to this goal."
The agency was created in 1968 with a mission to lead "Canada's international effort to help people living in poverty."
Its highest-profile projects in recent years were the rebuilding efforts associated with the war in Afghanistan and the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Both those projects paved the way, to some extent, for the merger announced Thursday as they were undertaken as part of broader foreign policy goals in each country.
Canada was urged to keep following that model in a review of its aid policies by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development last year.
"Using these cases as an example, Canada should devise a whole-of-government approach to all of its development programmes," the report said.
CIDA directly funds projects in more than 30 other countries, as well as spending millions through international partners such as the World Health Organization and World Food Program.
"Canada's international development investments play a vital role in improving the lives of those most in need around the world," CIDA Minister Julian Fantino said in a statement.
"It is a tangible expression of the best of Canadian values and a demonstration of our unwavering support for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."
The new department will be called the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
The aid portfolio will have its own cabinet minister and the budget said the government will codify his or her responsibilities for development and humanitarian aid, similar to the rules they laid out for the minister of international trade when that post was created in 2006.
The budget does not specify a cost for the amalgamation, nor if it will save the government money in administrative or program costs.
The move requires new legislation and no timeline is laid out for that.
How much cash will still go to international aid in the longterm is also not discussed.
Last year's federal budget ordered a $377-million cut in foreign aid by 2014-2015.
To achieve that, CIDA this year was set to eliminate programs in Cambodia, China, Malawi, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, for a total of $39 million in savings.
Budgets for aid to Bolivia, Pakistan, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa were being reduced to save $76 million.
Fantino has signalled in recent months that the agency's focus would change to encourage economic growth through support of local industries such as mining, agriculture and banking.
Those are three sectors in which Canadian businesses are actively involved abroad and Fantino has discussed publicly the role he sees for them in improving living conditions in the countries in which they work.
The budget adopts that philosophy.
"The mechanisms through which we are advancing our development objectives are increasingly more multi-faceted and more often now include our bilateral and multilateral relationships, trade and commercial interests and engagement with Canadian stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector," the document said.
"As the linkages between our foreign policy, development and trade objectives continue to grow, the opportunity to leverage each of these grows at equal pace."
2013 BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
Revenues for 2013-14 forecast at $263.9 billion, spending at $282.6 billion, deficit at $18.7 billion. Deficit projected to drop to $6.6 billion in 2014-15 and become an $800-million surplus in 2015-16. With files from Althia Raj and The Canadian Press.
Tackling The Skills Gap
The Tories plan to create a Canada Job Grant that will provide $15,000 or more per person -- up to $5,000 provided by the federal government, the rest matched by the province/territory and the employer. Nearly 130,000 Canadians are expected to benefit when the new grant is fully implemented in 2017-2018. Essentially, this is the government saying it is taking training out of the hands of provincial governments because it hasn’t worked and placing it in the hands of individuals. The Canada Job Grant will replace the Labour Market Agreements the feds signed with the provinces, which expire in 2014.
Manufacturing and small business get tax-credits introduced in past budgets extended to help spur investment and growth. There will be $1.4 billion in tax relief for manufacturers by extending the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investment in machinery and equipment. And hundreds of millions for small business owners.
The government has pledged more than $53 billion in infrastructure spending, including $47 billion in new funding over 10 years. This includes $32.2 billion over 10 years for a “Community Improvement Fund” to build roads and public transit as well as recreational facilities and other community infrastructure projects. The Fund will consist of an index Gas Tax Fund and the incremental GST Rebate for Municipalities.
Military spending will be re-jigged that it is modeled on the ship building strategy and aimed at creating more jobs in Canada and key domestic capabilities with an eye towards exports.
Foreign Affairs - Aid Agency Cancelled
The budget has cancelled the Canadian International Development Agency, the primary agency responsible for foreign aid. Its duties will be merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Tax Evasion Snitch Line
The government says it is aggressively going after tax avoiders/and closing tax loopholes. They are launching a “Stop International Tax Evasion Program” where the Canada Revenue Agency will pay individuals with knowledge of “major international tax non-compliance” a percentage of the tax collected as a result of information provided. The CRA will only pay a reward if the information results in total additional assessments exceeding $100,000 in federal tax.
Public Service Cuts
Two departments -- Canada Revenue Agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans -- will see big cuts. Departments will see a 5 per cent cut in their travel budgets. The government also says in the budget it intends to work with the public sector unions to “further align overall compensation with other public and private sector employers.”
The federal budget says new projects related to Canada's perimeter security deal with the United States will go ahead as planned, despite budget woes south of the border. The federal budget has given the green light to almost a dozen information-sharing and infrastructure projects related to the Beyond the Border initiative between the two countries. The vaunted deal was announced with fanfare by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in December 2011 at the White House. The plan aims to speed the flow of goods and people across the 49th parallel while protecting the continent from a terrorist attack.
Tobacco Prices Going Up
The government wants to reduce import tariffs on a number of goods including baby clothing, skis, snowboards and gold clubs. But it plans to offset the $76-million revenue loss from that by hiking excise taxes on chewing tobacco and other manufactured tobaccos, to bring them in line with cigarette taxes.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's spring budget commits Ottawa to five more years of funding through the Investment in Affordable Housing program. The level of commitment is the same as in the past: $253 million a year over five years, which needs to be matched by the provinces and territories and can be spent on new construction, renovation, home ownership assistance, rent supplements, shelters and homes for battered spouses. But there's a new twist to the funding. Home construction in the program will support the use of apprentices so that newcomers to the construction trades can build up crucial experience. The budget also commits $100 million over two years to build 250 more units of affordable housing in Nunavut, where homes are so crowded that illness spreads easily and poverty abounds.
MORE ON THE FEDERAL BUDGET