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International Development Minister Christian Paradis delivers opening remarks at a briefing on Canada's response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, November 14, 2013, at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
International Development Minister Christian Paradis delivers opening remarks at a briefing on Canada's response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, November 14, 2013, at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ottawa clarifies typhoon aid, pegs relief at $25-million Add to ...

The Canadian government’s financial aid to disaster-relief efforts in the Philippines stands at roughly $25-million, lower than initially suggested before Ottawa clarified its pledge.

Shortly after Typhoon Haiyan struck, Canada pledged $5-million, and said it would match Canadians’ private donations made before Dec. 9. On Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited a Filipino church and announced an “additional” $15-million, one he said “quadrupled” Canada’s cash contributions so far.

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A written version of his announcement listed all three facets – the initial $5-million, Monday’s $15-million and the “matching” fund – separately, and called Monday’s pledge “additional” money. So too did International Development Minister Christian Paradis, who told the House of Commons on Monday that the Canadian government had “will commit an additional $15-million toward emergency relief activities.”

At the time, Canadians’ private donations – not government money, but that the government had pledged to match – sat at $19.8-million. Mr. Paradis appeared to cite this matching obligation on Monday, saying the $15-million “brings Canada's commitment to nearly $40 million so far.” That appeared to be the sum of the initial $5-million, Monday’s $15-million and the “matching” funds, for which the government was on the hook for $19.8-million.

But Monday’s $15-million was not new money. Instead, it’s a re-announcement.

“The $15-million that was announced yesterday is part of the matching fund,” Mr. Paradis said during a briefing Tuesday. The Canadian government’s aid is, as such, closer to $25-million: $5-million initially, plus matching at least $19.8-million, including the $15-million, and not the “nearly $40-million” figure Mr. Paradis told the House of Commons about. A spokesman for Mr. Harper confirmed the $15-million is meant to apply to the “matching” donation.

Asked Tuesday about why he told the House “nearly $40-million”, Mr. Paradis said he was including the private donations of Canadians in the sum. If that was the case, however, his math was also off.

In that scenario, Ottawa would still be on the hook for the initial $5-million, plus matching $19.8-million in private donations, or $24.8-million. With the private donations themselves, that would be $44.6-million altogether in private contributions from Canadians and the federal government. It’s that sum that Mr. Paradis says he was referring to in saying “nearly $40-million” had been committed from “Canada.”

The confusion endured Tuesday, when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said in a question to Mr. Harper that the Liberals supported “the $20-million in aid that the government has provided, in addition to matching private donations.” Mr. Harper didn’t object to the figure, saying “I appreciate the support of the Liberal Party for this matter. I think it is a matter in which all Canadians are united.”

Mr. Trudeau had asked whether Canada will extend the Dec. 9 deadline; Mr. Harper replied that Ottawa will “apply the appropriate flexibility” going forward.

The total cost of Canada’s aid to the Philippines nonetheless remains unclear.

Canada will match donations made until Dec. 9, so the “matching” figure is expected to grow. Canada has also sent, as of Monday evening, 301 soldiers as part of the Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART. The Department of National Defence has said it does not know how much the DART mission will cost.

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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