03/23/2016 08:07 EDT | Updated 03/24/2017 05:12 EDT

Marie-Claude Bibeau: Aid Spending Would Help Canada Win Security Council Seat

"Of course we want to do more, we want to do better."

OTTAWA — Canada needs to show the world it is a more generous aid donor if it wants to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council, says the international development minister.

But Marie-Claude Bibeau says that doesn't mean committing Canada to reaching the UN's development spending goal of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

"I think that the .7 is too ambitious as a target," Bibeau told The Canadian Press Tuesday.

"Of course we want to do more, we want to do better."

Tuesday's federal budget saw the end of a five-year freeze on development spending with the government making a two-year, $256-million commitment, a figure Bibeau suggested she'd like to increase in the future.

Marie-Claude Bibeau says aid spending can help Canada's Security Council bid. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

The budget also tasked Bibeau with conducting a review of Canada's approach to foreign aid and the minister said she will report by autumn.

Bibeau said she would be presenting a five-year aid spending plan to cabinet, but added: "I am not ready yet to fix a target in percentage terms."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the government to come up with a plan to reach the 0.7 target as it announced a run for the Security Council for 2021.

Canada's aid-to-GNI ratio has dropped from 0.34 to 0.24 in the last decade. Raising the spending level back to that old level "seems to be more reasonable," Bibeau said, but she insisted she doesn't want to be boxed in.

Bibeau said there's no need to reinvent the development wheel.

The government has already announced that it will carry on the former Conservative government's signature aid initiative of maternal newborn child health, with one significant difference.

"Of course we want to do more, we want to do better."

However, the Liberals have lifted the Conservative ban on funding family planning projects, specifically abortion-related projects.

Bibeau is not about to jettison another Conservative aid priority — partnering with private sector companies.

The Conservatives built such partnerships in the natural resource sector, particularly mining companies, which sparked criticism.

Bibeau was non-committal about what lay ahead for those partnerships, but she made clear that there would be opportunities for companies involved in the green energy and agriculture sectors.

"I want to focus on helping local communities to be more resilient in the face of climate change," she said.

"I'm thinking about the agricultural sector because they have to face more droughts, more floods, earthquakes."

Grits pledged to help developing countries combat climate

Last fall, on the eve of the Paris climate change conference, the government announced a five-year, $2.65-billion contribution to a fund to help developing countries transition to low carbon economies.

Bibeau is also working with Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to potentially breathe new life into a Conservative aid idea from its last budget: a new development finance institution that would be housed within Export Development Canada.

The DFI was also panned by aid agencies because they saw it as a profit-driven initiative not entirely focused on alleviating poverty. While little progress has been made on creating it, Bibeau said: "we're looking at it very seriously."

Bibeau said she will consult with Canadians with an eye towards selling them on an issue that is rarely a "ballot question" come election time.

"At the cabinet table, many of my colleagues have international experience. This is a good thing for me," she said.

"The more I have Canadians with me, the easier it will be to convince (my) colleagues."

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