Les Whittington, The Toronto Star, May 13, 2008
Link: MPs Bill on Foreign Aid Set to Pass at Long Last
MP’s bill on foreign aid set to pass at long last | Legislation means bulk of funding must target poverty reduction
OTTAWA–The long attempt by Toronto Liberal MP John McKay to force the government to ensure that Canada’s foreign aid is targeted directly at reducing poverty is about to pay off.
McKay’s private member’s bill requiring the Canadian International Development Agency to give priority to the needs of the world’s poor is expected to receive final approval in the Commons today.
Under Bill C-293, which McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood) calls “The Better Aid Bill,” the minister responsible for CIDA must guarantee that the vast bulk of Canada’s overseas aid – now $4.4 billion annually – contributes to poverty reduction and is consistent with international human rights standards.
McKay said Canada is not getting maximum results abroad because the projects supported by its foreign assistance money vary widely, from judicial support to helping refugees.
“We’ve been all things to all people at all times and as a consequence we’ve been nothing to everybody,” he said. “We have been under legitimate criticism that we are not effective in our aid delivery and that’s what the Better Aid Bill is all about.”
He said the legislation will give CIDA a renewed focus and, for the first time, a specific legislated mandate.
“Every program that CIDA does will have to ask the basic question: Will this program help with poverty alleviation? And if the answer is yes, then we probably will proceed with the program. If the answer is no, then we won’t.”
To enhance accountability, the CIDA minister will be required under the legislation to submit an annual report to Parliament on how foreign aid money is meeting the goal of poverty reduction abroad.
McKay, who chairs the Liberal Party caucus committee on economic prosperity, originally proposed the legislation two years ago.
Passage of a private member’s bill is rare, but efforts to provide CIDA with new marching orders trained solely on poverty reduction have enjoyed the support of the bulk of MPs since 2005. McKay has been assured the backing of all parties in the Commons in today’s vote.