On close examination, however, it becomes evident that not only is Canada's approach to development assistance outdated, it is outright embarrassing and risks ruining Canada's international reputation. I often use the term "lost in transition" to describe aid that barely gets to its intended beneficiaries, a concept that is appropriate for Canada's case. Even when poorly conceived and executed aid gets to the recipient, it often does more harm than good.
There has never been a more critical and opportune time to take control of Toronto's development plans. Our city is in the middle of a development boom, yet we face a housing crisis. Despite this grim reality, there is still the opportunity to do better for our city. In fact, we are well-positioned to build a beautiful city that is vibrant, inclusive, and more mindful of the environment.
If you look at Calgary and Edmonton, their skylines full of construction cranes, developers must do more than 'aim for height'. As the old adage goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day". Developers must be creative and work closely with architects to foster the development of robust communities that reflect cohesive design, and feature functional buildings that people want to live in.
The international community was slow to respond to the African ebola outbreak. One reason was a lack of early warning. It comes down to something population health scientists call "surveillance", a word that alarms the lay public, since it conjures images of Big Brother observing our intimate activities. Surveillance systems can be simple or complex. They always cost money. But if they help to identify an outbreak, and thus help to prevent an epidemic, then they save much more money. But poor governments are unlikely to invest in prevention systems when there are immediate health crises that need resources right now: HIV/AIDS, Malaria, maternal and reproductive health issues, etc.
#BringBackOurGirls was a massively popular way of protesting in part because it was so simple. Most major celebrities, politicians and even conservative political pundits participated. It was all an impressive display that sadly overlooked the real solutions to dilemmas like the Nigerian kidnappings.
Mosquito bites mean something different in many parts of the world. Working for an international aid and development agency, I've learned about the dangers of malaria, an infectious disease transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito. On World Malaria Day, I think about the millions of children who have no bug spray -- not ever.
Consider what is happening in Syria even as we read these words. Aid agencies have become so desperate for help that they repeatedly call upon the affluent West to step up and assist the 9.3 million people living at risk, and the 3.5 million Syrians living under siege. Surely these people matter to us, right?
The United Nations ranks the Central African Republic a level three emergency, among the top three humanitarian emergencies globally. The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are concerned about the lack of awareness of this crisis. What can the government do to raise awareness of the crisis in the international community and at home in Canada?
The recent troubles in the south that sprung up only a month ago, and the instability that has resulted, has pressed that African region to the precipice. But just this week, the Harper government, through its Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), has recommended, "that Canada consider downgrading its development program (in Sudan), or exiting entirely."
The recent native protests in New Brunswick against proposed hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") are not only devoid of facts but harm the potential for prosperity and lower personal taxes. Add in the anti-fracking frothing in neighbouring Nova Scotia, and also in Quebec, and it adds up to ill-advised provincial policies, this despite the safety of fracking.
Areas of Earth that have remained relatively free of industrial development have taken on a special significance. In Canada, they include awe-inspiring landscapes like the Sacred Headwaters in northwestern B.C. But the Sacred Headwaters is not protected under law. It remains at risk from a multitude of proposed mines, railways, transmission lines and other projects that will eviscerate the landscape if approved.
When I first heard about the dismantling of the Canadian International Development Agency in the government's recent budget, I was rather dismayed. Nonetheless, upon delving into the issue further, it became clear that my initial reaction was quite misguided. International aid from Canada is not coming to an end; the budget has merely initiated the merging of CIDA with the Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim is not to slash aid, but rather to have a more synergized approach to its deliverance in developing countries. The merger of CIDA with DFAIT ensures the money our government spends internationally will be more focused, effective and better reflect and preserve the national interests of Canada.
In yesterday's budget the government announced that Canada's International Development Agency (CIDA) will be merged within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). CIDA's mandate of poverty reduction is distinct from the mandate of DFAIT, which is to promote Canada's interests abroad. The merger of these departments must be done without watering down CIDA's mandate.