The Canadian government’s recent changes to how and where it doles out our foreign aid dollars has damaged this nation’s image abroad and helped to line the pockets of some of the most profitable companies in the world and we, the Canadian taxpayer, get to pay for the privilege.
This turn of events is almost as disturbing as recent revelations of the champagne tastes of the minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Minister Bev Oda is making national headlines this week for her penchant for living high on the public chit, racking up significantly increased expenses (including a $16 glass of orange juice) during these days of fiscal restraint and austerity budgets. The most recent example in a long run of offensive entitlements was Minister Oda’s shunning of the five star hotel accommodations into which she was booked in favour of boutique digs more suited to those who aspire to aristocratic tastes overlooking the Thames.
Until recently, the Canadian government took its lead on overseas development largely from Canadians, through the average citizen’s generous donations to non-governmental organizations. CIDA would match the money that Canadians gave to fund overseas development programs, often through groups such as Development and Peace, thereby helping to build economic self-sufficiency from the grass roots up.
In an apparent recent change in government policy, the Harper government is now handing over CIDA funds to Canadian corporations, including giant and highly profitable mining corporations under fire for ravaging the resources of impoverished countries while providing little benefit to local populations in return.
Now, those highly profitable corporations are getting huge influxes of taxpayer dollars to fund social responsibility projects, often to ameliorate negative conditions engendered by those very corporation’s operations. All this from a party whose past is littered with grand pronouncements of the evils of corporate welfare and whose sights now seem to be firmly set on the demise of economic development initiatives across the country.
Ransacking the social benefit coffers has been a hallmark of right-of-centre parties (at least according to their leftward leaning political opponents), but the worst abuses of transferring those same benefits to society’s most wealthy is usually reserved for the pseudo democracies our parents once derisively referred to as ‘banana republics.’
By tying our foreign aid to Canadian corporations abroad and linking CIDA to the actions of some of the most brazen and rapacious mining companies operating across the globe today, our government has tarred the Canadian public with the same brush as these latter day ‘robber barons.’ One need look no further to see the decline of Canada’s reputation abroad than the historic loss in the race for a seat at the UN Security Council as a result of these changes in how Canada does business.
It is time that the Government of Canada move away from the ideals and aspirations of the Harper government agenda and toward that of those Canadian people who foot the bill.