In each case, I’ve referred to the failure of Canada’s non-governing political parties to criticize the Trudeau Liberals in a manner that differentiates them in a positive way.
Having read the Globe and Mail’s coverage of the foreign aid community’s response to the federal budget, it seems to me that the problem is not just with our elected opposition.
The article notes that Ottawa will be providing Global Affairs Canada with up to $375 million to support Canada’s international pandemic response in this coming year, along with another $165 million for international humanitarian assistance writ large.
The government has also promised annual increases to Canada’s development assistance budget for the next five years ($1.4 billion total), new money to respond to the Rohingya crisis ($288.3 million over three years), and assistance for Venezuelan refugees ($80.3 million over two years).
When asked for his reaction, Nicolas Moyer, the CEO of Cooperation Canada (formerly the Canadian Council for International Cooperation) which purports to speak for over 80 international development and humanitarian organizations, responded:
“In a moment where the world is facing its greatest crisis of a generation, the apparent ambivalence of our budget to the global crisis can arguably be interpreted as negligence.”
Cooperation Canada wants Ottawa to allocate 1% of Canada’s domestic COVID spending (or about $1.9 billion) to the international effort.
I am sympathetic to the basic argument that the pandemic will not end until it ends everywhere. Moreover, as one of the world’s wealthiest countries, Canada is certainly well positioned to contribute more than its fair share to make that happen.
But I can all-but-promise you that the Trudeau Liberals brushed off Moyer’s comments without flinching (if they noticed them at all).
I see three problems with his approach.
First, calling for more money is so predictable that the government would have factored such a critique into its announcement.
In other words, the Liberals were well aware that some groups wouldn’t be satisfied with the extent of their international commitment; that’s always the case.
Second, 1% is arbitrary. Why not 0.7% (to mimic the 0.7% of gross national income that the UN has called on all developed countries to contribute to international assistance)? Or 2%?
Or should percentages have anything to do with Canada’s commitment – the needs of the world have no direct relationship with the extent of the Canadian government’s domestic COVID-19 response budget.
A number without a compelling narrative is unhelpful.
Most important, there is little constructive in Moyer’s comments.
Far more interesting, at least to me, would have been observations about the lack of an explicit strategy to distribute excess Canadian vaccines to countries in need.
Should our surplus be donated to COVAX? Handed out directly to governments? How might Ottawa prioritize? Cooperation Canada has the expertise to provide credible answers to these questions.
It is a shame that Moyer appears to have missed the opportunity to do so.
A pox (plague) on both their houses:
Back in 2014, the governing Conservative Party faced a major scandal surrounding how it dealt with Senator Mike Duffy’s expense claims. Those who follow politics will recall the controversy over how much Prime Minister Stephen Harper knew about the actions of his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who paid Duffy’s bill to try to make the problem go away. At the time, Conservative partisans were adamant that Harper never knew that Wright had written a personal cheque. Members of the opposition, including the Liberals, were incredulous.
Flash forward to 2021 and the governing Liberal Party faces a scandal over how it dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct by the chief of the defence staff, Jonathan Vance. It turns out that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, had been briefed about the allegations. Now Liberal partisans are adamant that Trudeau should be taken at his word when he says he was not personally aware of the case, and the Conservatives are incredulous.
Going into politics is honourable. What excessive partisanship does to so many of our elected officials (and their supporters) is not.
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