Politics and Poverty

Canada’s newest budget marks a major transition in our structures for international development and relief. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has been a largely autonomous entity in the past but is now being enfolded with our foreign relations and trade agencies. The government is explicit that this is an effort to better link our foreign aid with our economic and security policies. Many Canadian charities who work in the development world are receiving this news with significant concern. World Vision issued this statement. It is beyond my insight to properly analyse this change. I know that Canada has enjoyed a very strong reputation for our relief and development historically, and that this has suffered in recent years for a variety of reasons. I know that CIDA has often been bureaucratically difficult for some organizations to work with, and that they have never been free of concerns about partisan political agendas. I also know that there is a legitimate issue when our assistance to the world’s most vulnerable is directly linked to our national economic interests without at least some separation to act as a conscience. More interesting to me is what the response says about our sectors confidence in our current government. It is reasonable that merging agencies can create a more efficient, more consistent process. Bringing some alignment between our aid and trade makes sense at surface level. The resistance surely demonstrates that charity leaders are not confident that this decision will improve things for those in greatest need. That betrays a simple doubt that federal leadership is concerned about and committed to these issues. We don’t trust our elected politicians to think beyond politics on these matters. It’s a simple leadership principle: The amount of resistance a change receives is inversely related to the amount of trust the leaders have from the people. In this case, the Harper government is being seen as untrustworthy. Tim will tell if they are able to change that.