The young agency didn't even make it into its 20s. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) burst into public notice with the announcement of its first minister in 1995. Sadly, with yesterday's Conservative budget, CIDA suffered a premature passing.
Prior to that moment in 1995, Canada's foreign aid and development projects and policies were worked out and monitored under the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Yet under Brian Mulroney's government, and in partnership with Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Clark, government commitment to the world's needy took on a far more prominent role and Clark made it a matter of principle to ensure that the world understood that this country took its role in foreign aid seriously.
It was a time of new perspective, as donor nations like Sweden, Britain, and the United States began to put more emphasis on destitute poverty. The time seemed right for some kind of breakthrough. It occurred in the 1990s, when those governments mentioned above opted to provide their foreign aid officers with money, access, and most important of all, their own separate profiles in the forms of new agencies or full-blown departments.
Canada wasn't far behind. Building on the Mulroney/Clark foundation, Jean Chretien made CIDA its own agency and provided it with its first minister. There were growing pains, to be sure, but the decision by the G7 nations at the Kannanaskis summit, chaired by Jean Chretien, to concentrate their efforts on Africa, saw the building of a global poverty alleviation movement that ultimately resulted in the United Nations Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) and Canada's own promise, under Paul Martin, to double Canadian aid to Africa at the Gleneagles summit in 2005. Suddenly being international was cool again.
For a time following the Bush Jr., David Cameron and Stephen Harper electoral wins it appeared as though the trend might continue. It wasn't to be. Canada, Britain and the Americans maintained high levels of donations but in a boutique fashion that ultimately undermined the holistic pursuits of the MDGs and their emphasis on a coordinated approach across different sectors.
In my time as a Member of Parliament and Opposition critic for CIDA (2006-2011), it was becoming increasingly clear that the prior efforts of Mulroney/Clark and Chretien/Martin held little appeal to the new Conservative government. They lifted two of the MDGs -- child and maternal health, and food distribution -- from the more complex goals and opted to pursue them in a fashion that was skewing the growing coordination of foreign aid and development aims of previous governments. It wasn't a good time.
Through my office in West Block flooded an ongoing stream of non-government organizations and their leaders fretting that the kind of imagination and ingenuity required to deliver foreign aid effectively was badly slipping. They were right, of course, but in Ottawa everything is political, not necessarily rational, and they couldn't get a hearing from the government.
Worst of all was what was running through the minds of CIDA workers themselves. Their ship had hit an iceberg, and being the professionals they were, they comprehended that it was perhaps fatal, even if others refused to acknowledge it.
Well, they were right, too. Some CIDA workers learned of the Agency's demise in yesterday's budget through a memo released earlier that day. There was little preparation for it, and even less understanding of what this would signal to our international partners and recipient nations worldwide.
They had watched in growing alarm as Canada continued to shrink in international standings. While Canadians and their government clung to the belief that they were fine because their economy might have been doing better than other nations, their international partners could see the writing on the wall, especially when Canada was denied its seat on the UN Security Council.
Above all else, CIDA was part of an idea that was emerging in numerous countries at the same time and which introduced a new era of Canadian compassion to the world. It was smarter, keener, cooler and substantial. Yesterday, the dream ended.
Many of us knew it was coming, but its axing in the budget is a far more significant blow to this country's reputation that the Harper government realizes. Very good men and women in CIDA had built solid and progressive relationships with their partners in other countries, and though Canada's foreign aid will continue in various capacities, the dream of the kind of international interventions of compassion that made a clear and multi-dimensional difference is over.
While I mourn CIDA's passing, my ultimate grief is felt for all those qualified men and women in the Agency, who, despite all the odds, struggled to make our compassion known. They deserved better, as did the country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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