Steven Hoffman, a health policy professor,argued Mondaythat equality, democracy and health should be Canada’s foreign aid priorities. International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino says economic development will help.
Mr. Hoffman seems to think that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. Much of the private sector’s activities in developing countries complements, rather than diminishes, Canada’s commitment to democracy and providing those most in need access to basic education and healthcare.
Eradicating poverty through development is a complex task that requires multiple tools and a balanced portfolio. Without a robust local economy in developing countries, we relegate its sustainability to subsidies – not an incentive for true growth.
As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has stated: “Africa does not need charity – Africa needs investment and partnership.” The same is true for all developing countries. A functioning private sector (with successful multinationals and local small and medium enterprises) within the confines of smart, fair, transparent, accountable and well-implemented public policy is integral to overall development.
This is not to say we are abandoning our other international development priorities. Contrary to Mr. Hoffman’s assertion, CIDA remains a world leader in areas of democratic governance, basic healthcare and education.
Strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring good governance is something our government takes pride in. In Haiti, for example, our assistance enabled the creation of a national civil registration and identification system. As a result of this project, 4.8 million adults (85 per cent of the adult population of Haiti) have now received a secure national identification card, enabling them to receive essential services and participate in elections that will help determine their future.
In healthcare, we are reaching the most vulnerable around the globe and the results are staggering. For example, Canada is a world leader in the global fight to eradicate polio. Again, we are seeing real game-changing results. In Afghanistan, where Canada has been the single largest donor to polio eradication, the virus is now largely constrained to the south of the country. Our support has allowed more than seven million Afghan children to continue to be vaccinated against the disease. This is one accomplishment, among many, Canadians can be proud of. All of which Mr. Hoffman failed to acknowledge.
The fact is Canada is providing multifaceted development assistance and we are achieving measureable results. However, addressing weak non-democratic institutions or providing access to basic healthcare will not solve the development conundrum in itself. Developing countries need to achieve private sector led economic growth so that they can ultimately provide the basic services required by their people.
Julian Fantino, Conservative MP for Vaughan, is the minister for international co-operation.