From Friday's Toronto Star:
Don't Skip Africa In Our Foreign Aid
Canada doesn't spend that much on foreign aid: $4.8 billion this year. That's roughly 0.3 per cent of our economic output, well below the 0.45 per cent target the Conservatives themselves set in 2006. Within the G7, we were last in 2007 in absolute donor dollars and just middling in relative terms.
Given this modest spending, Prime Minister Stephen Harper can't be faulted for focusing on fewer countries, to have more impact. But the shift unveiled this week by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda isn't just about identifying 20 priority countries that we intend to help. It's also about stepping up Canada's involvement in places where former U.S. president George W. Bush wanted more help to bolster American interests.
Canada's new tilt is toward the Americas, and away from Africa. Colombia will get more aid, as will Peru, Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras and the Caribbean. Only Haiti made the list of Canada's top 20 bilateral aid recipients in 2005. Canada enjoys growing trade with this group. But we'll also be a higher-profile, U.S.-friendly presence in an unstable region. Anything we do to close the huge rich/poor gap will undercut the region's anti-American radicals and blunt their appeal.
This shift, while significant, is not seismic. Of the top 20, 13 were on the old list. Still, the Conservatives risk being criticized for adopting a Made-in-the-U.S.A. approach to aid that reflects Bush-era thinking, especially with respect to Africa, where poverty is far greater, by dropping places like Cameroon, Zambia and Congo from the top 20.
I have tried for a very long time to hold my tongue and be apolitical on this blog, but this story just makes me pop. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper is cutting back on aid to Africa? The article compares this to Bush style politics but I would argue that it's worse. Despite all of the negatives during his administration, George Bush did display a commitment to treating AIDS in the poorest nations in Africa, not because it was politically expedient, but because it was the moral thing to do. Apparently Mr. Harper has no such moral compass.
The Conservative Party got my vote last time primarily because I felt pressured by friends and family to vote Conservative...it's what all good Christians do, right? Well, sorry Mr. Harper but you have lost my vote. Your party has morphed into the Republican party north and I will not stand for your imperious, manipulative, and callous tactics any longer. I have spoken to people who work for NGO's or for refugee settlement agencies, and to a person, they bemoan the fact that Canada (narrowly) elected the Conservatives back into parliament in the last election. I don't think we'll make that mistake again.