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International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino in his office on Parliament Hill, Monday December 3, 2012. (Fred Chartrand For The Globe and Mail)
International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino in his office on Parliament Hill, Monday December 3, 2012. (Fred Chartrand For The Globe and Mail)

Feds remove online references to CIDA, merge it with foreign affairs and trade department Add to ...

The federal government is removing online references to the Canadian International Development Agency as it takes the first visible steps to combine Canada’s foreign aid work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The government’s budget implementation bill became law on Wednesday, laying the groundwork for the creation of the new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada -- an expanded department the government says will help better align Canada’s priorities abroad.

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By Wednesday evening, links to CIDA’s website began directing users to a splash page for the newly amalgamated department. Web pages containing more detailed information about Canada’s development and aid priorities retained the same look as CIDA’s former website, though some references to the agency’s name have been removed.

The agency also announced Thursday morning that its Twitter handle, @CIDA_CA, would be closing and directed users to follow @DFATDCanada instead.

CIDA staff are switching over to new e-mail addresses (@international.gc.ca) and signage outside the agency’s Gatineau, Que., building now bears the name of the amalgamated department. Staff at the agency are being told this week that their job descriptions and day-to-day work will remain the same unless they are specifically informed otherwise.

A message sent to employees at the new department on Wednesday says the government expects the new organization to “vigorously promote and defend Canadian interests and values abroad.”

“In today's globalized world, threats to prosperity, security, and development are not confined to national borders or traditional approaches,” says the message, which is signed by Canada’s ministers for trade, development and foreign affairs, as well as the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs.

“In advancing our own security and prosperity, we must work to advance the security and prosperity of others. A single department, fully integrated across geography and themes, will ensure that diplomatic, trade, and development resources and expertise around the world are fully leveraged to that end.”

The decision to merge CIDA’s work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has prompted criticism from some international development experts, who worry the move could have an impact on how Canadian foreign aid dollars are spent, putting greater emphasis on foreign policy and commerce objectives than on CIDA’s mandate of poverty alleviation.

Julian Fantino, whose title was changed to Minister of International Development under the new legislation, has said Canada’s development efforts will continue to focus on poverty alleviation. He says the new department will improve foreign policy coherence and boost the impact that foreign aid and development work can have on less-developed countries.

In recent months, Mr. Fantino has advocated for the agency to work more closely with Canada’s private sector, a move he has said will result in a win for both Canadian businesses and the agency’s poverty reduction efforts. CIDA has already established partnerships with mining companies and non-governmental organizations in several mining communities and created an extractive industry institute aimed, in part, at providing advice to developing country governments on their mining policies.

Earlier this month, CIDA updated its description of its work with the private sector and created a new e-mail address for companies to use to discuss ideas for collaboration on Canada’s development work.

Last week, the Conservative government named bureaucrat Paul Rochon as the new head of the foreign aid agency. Mr. Rochon will replace current CIDA president Margaret Biggs on July 8, as Ms. Biggs moves to a temporary position at the Privy Council Office.

Mr. Rochon will come to the job from his current position as an associate deputy minister of health, but his expertise is in finance and he also currently serves as a special adviser to the Minister of Finance on negotiations for a Canadian securities regulator. He will become the deputy minister for international development in the new department.

Follow on Twitter: @kimmackrael

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