Hon. John McKay P.C., M.P. on Ian Smillie’s “It’s High Time for a Minister Who Understands the Role of Aid” (Globe & Mail, January 8, 2010)


January 28, 2010

As we approach the Liberal Party’s International Development Roundtable on the Hill (February 2nd, 2010) it seems appropriate to comment on Ian Smillie’s recent article It’s High Time for a Minister Who Understands the Role of Aid (Globe & Mail, January 8, 2010) which was bang on. Unfortunately, the situation is actually much worse and ultimately a disgrace to our nation.

Every Minister in the last 10-15 years has a new set of priorities which are announced with great fanfare at the beginning of his or her mandate. All of the NGOs are simply expected to adjust accordingly. Since the year 2000 there have no fewer than 23 “priorities” announced by various Ministers in various combinations and CIDA has had 5 different themes in the past 7 years. An NGO coming up for a funding decision could be forgiven if it didn’t guess which were the priorities “du jour” of this or any future Ministers over the course of its funding cycle.

But it gets worse. KAIROS for example, met the funding criteria as set out by CIDA and was merely awaiting the sign off by the Minister. The Agency had actually done the due diligence on the Minister’s behalf and approved the funding based upon the funding “priorities.” Yet at the last minute, KAIROS was defunded. This can only lead to several logical conclusions:

1. CIDA doesn’t understand the Minister’s priorities and is therefore misinterpreting her priorities;
2. CIDA is not aware of the Minister’s priorities and therefore is applying some other criteria;
3. CIDA understands the Minister’s priorities and is applying them to funding decisions but the priorities don’t matter.

The first two seem to be implausible, especially after a 35 year funding relationship with CIDA, so the only possible conclusion is that the Minister made or was forced to make a purely political decision contrary to the due diligence recommendations of the agency. Indeed, that conclusion was substantiated when, in a speech in Israel, Minister Kenny confirmed that the government defunded KAIROS because it had a “zero tolerance” policy for “anti-Semitic” (Israel) policies.

Leaving aside Kenny’s gratuitous smear of a fine organization and his gross insult to its constituent Churches, NGO’S and people, the analysis of the decision making process is deeply disturbing with tragic results not only for KAIROS but the people it was trying to serve.

The only thing that is relevant is the law. In May of 2008 the Governor General gave Royal Assent to “The Better Aid Bill” previously known as C-293 which was passed with the unanimous consent of Parliament. The law of the land states that policies and programs will adhere to three principles:

1. Poverty alleviation;
2. Taking into account the perspectives of the poor to account for the needs of those receiving Canada’s aid;
3. Respect for international human rights standards.

That is Canada’s law. Ministers come and go, parties come and go. The law says these are our nation’s priorities for Official Development Assistance. Therefore the Minister can only fund or defund KAIROS or any NGO based upon those principles. You will search high and low to find any indication that Minister Oda applied the law to her decision.

Like the Prime Minister, the Minister of International Cooperation seems to view Canadian law, institutions and the will of the people as merely an annoying impediment to their imperial style of governing.

When a government wilfully ignores the law you have chaos. We have the sorry spectacle of Minister Kenny denying what he said on the record and in front of the camera about KAIROS and anti-Semitism. Then bouncing the ball back to Minister Oda saying it was always her decision. By then, Minister Oda had already reversed the recommendations of her own agency. Prior to this you have the agency either applying the funding priorities of the Minister as they see them, or not. Meanwhile Canadians and NGO’s are rightly confused about the application of their dollars designated for poor people in developing countries.

Pity the NGO up for a funding decision in this chaos. When the law is ignored chaos results and people get hurt. What a mess.

Hon. John McKay P.C., M.P.