The pledge would reduce Canada’s $6-billion foreign aid budget, which the Conservative leader portrayed as being poorly managed by the Liberals. Scheer vowed to redirect $700 million to countries that need it most.
The savings, Scheer added, would be reinvested in his party’s plans for a universal tax cut and various tax credits.
“We are going to re-prioritize foreign aid so it is focused on countries in greatest need while using the savings to help Canadians like you get ahead,” Scheer said in Toronto.
He unveiled his foreign policy proposals in lieu of a planned debate between federal party leaders that had been organized by the Munk Debates and scheduled for Tuesday. The event was cancelled after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau declined to participate.
Scheer also repeated his previous vow to de-politicize military procurement even as he promised to order a second interim naval support ship from Quebec shipyard Chantier Davie, which the navy has said it does not need.
The Conservatives, if elected, have said they would move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, provide weapons to Ukraine and ask the United States about joining its ballistic-missile defence program.
They would also re-open an office of religious freedom set up by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper and later closed by Liberal government.
Scheer kicked off his remarks by criticizing Trudeau for not agreeing to participate in the debate.
He accused the Liberal leader of having failed Canadians on the world stage through his disastrous trip to India, negotiation of “one-sided trade deals” and treatment of veterans.
The promised cuts that Scheer announced Tuesday would include ending all funding to a United Nations’ organization that supports Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, which the Conservative leader accused of being openly anti-Semitic and having helped the Hamas terrorist group.
It is time for Canada to put our money where our mouth is and only use foreign aid to support the Canadian values we hold dear.Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer
The United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, which saw its funding from Canada previously cut by the Harper Conservatives before it was re-instated by the Trudeau Liberals, has denied being anti-Semitic or supportive of Hamas.
Scheer also blasted the Liberals for directing Canadian aid dollars to Iran, North Korea and Russia.
Canada is providing money to a number of programs run by the World Health Organization and other international groups in those countries that include efforts to stop tuberculosis, strengthen the rule of law and provide loans to help women start small businesses.
“At a time when Canadians are working harder than ever and not getting ahead, Trudeau is using their hard-earned tax dollars to support anti-Semitic organizations and prop up foreign dictatorships,” Scheer said.
“It is time for Canada to put our money where our mouth is and only use foreign aid to support the Canadian values we hold dear.”
Scheer also said he would redirect $700 million from what he described as middle- to upper-income countries — such as Mexico, China, Brazil and Turkey — to nations that need it the most, with a focus on support for children in conflict zones.
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation, an umbrella group that represents many Canadian development groups, expressed concerned following Scheer’s announcement, saying what is needed is not cuts to Canadian foreign aid, but more of it.
While the rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, of which Canada is a member, have agreed to spent 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid, Canada currently spends only 0.28 per cent.
“International development and humanitarian assistance are important parts of Canada’s global leadership that contribute to visible impacts,” the CCIC said in a statement.
“For example, South Korea went from a major aid recipient to an important trading partner for Canada and the world. In as little as 25 years, Rwanda, after suffering a vicious genocide, has gone from crisis to develop into a model of economic development for many on the African continent.”
Scheer was asked at one point whether he was concerned his cuts to foreign aid would affect Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, especially given that Ireland and Norway, which are also seeking seats at the same time, are spending much more.
The Conservative leader said he was confident that Canada’s allies would recognize its strong role in the world before suggesting the seat wasn’t his top priority.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 1, 2019.