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10 Reasons Trudeau Could Increase Canadian Aid In 2017

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by Julia Sanchez

As we approach budget day and speculate about how the government will address the many priorities, commitments and demands they face, we in the international development sector have been working together to build a solid case for why Budget 2017 needs to include a substantive increase in international assistance.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ont., Canada, Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Here are my current top 10 reasons why:

  1. Because the world needs more from Canada now more than ever
  2. Because this is important for Canada's own prosperity and security
  3. Because it is in our interests as a middle power with global ambitions
  4. Because Canadians are global citizens
  5. Because we need to put our money where our mouth is
  6. Because we need to start now so that we eventually get to where we need to be
  7. Because we are behind our peers
  8. Because we are below our own historical averages
  9. Because we have cross-party support for changing the negative trend
  10. Because it is 2017

On the positive side, since last year the world has embarked on an ambitious 15-year agenda to end poverty everywhere. Agenda 2030, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has been agreed to by most countries around the world and provides a framework that could transform our world promising peace and prosperity with healthy people and planet.

The price tag, understandably, is huge. And while resources need to be mobilized across sectors and countries to realize the SDGs, the role of aid is central and critically important. Rich countries must do their part for Agenda 2030 to succeed, and Canada is far from the internationally agreed, UN-sanctioned 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) dedicated to Official Development Assistance. We are hovering just above one third of that.

As the world embarks on this ambitious agenda to transform our world, the political landscape around the globe is shifting and the popularity of nationalist, inward looking movements is growing. The number of countries we can rely on to provide global leadership over the coming years is shrinking, and Canada stands out as one of the key liberal democracies with solid footing and a stated commitment to internationalism.

We need to put our money where our mouth is and make proportionate investments on battling global challenges.

Canadian political leaders and Canadians understand that we can only be prosperous and peaceful if the rest of the world is also. Canada is quickly becoming one of the most globally-connected societies, with a healthy mix of immigrant groups and outward looking citizens that care about what happens beyond our borders.

The Trudeau government, from its early days, has announced its ambition to occupy a key place in steering the global community -- including by occupying a seat in the Security Council. This makes sense today more than a year ago, and arguably more than ever. But if we are to realize those ambitions of being an influential player, we need to put our money where our mouth is and make proportionate investments on battling global challenges.

This includes increasing our aid budget in the short-term, and sustaining that increase over the next decade so that we can reach 0.7 per cent in the foreseeable future. For Budget 2017, increasing the aid budget by 12 per cent, which is the minimum that Canada should do, is equivalent to a rounding error. The aid budget is around two per cent of the overall federal budget, so an increase of 12 per cent would not change anything in the larger scheme of things, but would make all the difference in the world with respect to the positive impact our new investments could make, and the enhanced credibility the country would earn.

A sustained increase of 12 per cent per year would have Canada reaching the international target by 2030, the year that we should achieve the SDGs. It would put is back in a leadership position amongst our peers, a position we have lost since the 1990's. It would get us out of the position we are in now: we are way back from our peers, the G7 and like-minded countries, and we are below our own historical record.

Unless Budget 2017 starts correcting this, our current global and feminist prime minister will end his mandate with the lowest percentage contribution to aid, as a share of GNI, of any other prime minister in 50 years -- that is unimaginable! He does not want that surely, and neither do we as a country want to be there.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised our expectations and the world's when he coined the phrase "because it's 2015" to explain the bold and progressive stance he was taking with respect to gender parity in his cabinet, and on women's rights more broadly (and yes, he is a feminist too).

Early in his mandate, he also announced that "Canada is back" and that "we are here to help," signalling a new era of global engagement and leadership. Doing our part to increase and sustain the pot of development assistance funding for the world is a key part of that. We can do this. We are a stable, prosperous and generous country. In November, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development called on the government to spend 0.35 per cent of GNI by 2020, and to reach 0.7 by 2030.

In December, in their Report on the Pre-Budget consultations, the Standing Committee on Finance concurred -- calling on Canada to increase its official development Assistance (ODA) investments to 0.35 per cent within the next three to four years. Canadians are supportive. Let's get Canadian aid "Back on Track" in Budget 2017!

Julia Sanchez is the President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC).

This article was first published in CCIC's e-newsletter FLASH!

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