On International Women's Day, the global picture is filled with girls for whom the schoolhouse door is closed. It's not just a matter of having one's freedom of choice limited, as it was with pioneer schoolgirls here in Canada. It's even bleaker than that.
After weeks of maneuvering by the Canadian government to secure a lucrative contract in Trinidad and Tobago for graft-tainted engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the government of that Caribbean nation has announced that it isn't interested in dealing with a company that has "difficulty in passing the test of confidence." T&T can see that the company cannot be trusted, so why can't the Canadian government?
We can now admit the truth: the Syrian refugees are on their own. So let's stop pretending. The two million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, and some four million remain internally displaced. The numbers are simply staggering -- the largest since the Rwandan crisis of the early 1990s. We shouldn't be surprised. Our belief in politics is at an all-time low, as is voter turnout in many countries. We seem frozen in time when it comes to troubling developments such as climate change or the rapid widening gap between the rich and the poor. Democracy seems incapable at the moment of meeting its most serious challenges.
For us Canadians, the wisdom of our government to be involved in the affairs of the world is our collective priority and is still how the world envisions Canada to be. The world has always noted our efforts and indeed -- as Bono reminded us a decade ago -- "the world needs more Canada".
Canadians have witnessed the emaciation of Canada's overseas development budget since Harper won his majority in 2011. Most core Conservative voters would be appalled at any increase, particularly in iffy economic times. So when it comes to foreign aid, Stephen Harper is a clever politician.
The biggest and most complex problems of a generation remain unaddressed and stand a chance of remaining so no matter who the leader of the country might be in the future. Unless Justin Trudeau brings his game face to the following predicaments, he runs the risk of simply being an "also ran" like the others.
The Harper government would do well to learn from the approach of the Conservative government in the United Kingdom which, in a difficult economic situation, has made the laudable commitment not to cut its aid budget. Scaling back our development assistance is, frankly, out of step with Canadian values.
It was good of Minister Fantino to respond to my article, but it would have proved far more productive if he had just listened to the professionals in his own department. They possess the training, on-the-ground experience, and clear-headed compassion to help Canada make a greater difference.
A real commitment to aid effectiveness would mean empowering CIDA staff to do the jobs they have been hired to do: provide unbiased information from which development programs and policies can be crafted. In the spirit of public service, proper decisions need to be constructed through discussion.
For well over a decade CIDA has been pushed from pillar to post, reeling from the constant shifting of priorities and reductions in funding. Quietly, and with sadness, the agency has watched many of its key personnel leave in favour of more imaginative posts in the United Nations or the NGO field.