It is heartening that two of Canada's federal cabinet ministers want to meet with former U.S. president Bill Clinton to discuss the pace of reconstruction in Haiti. Mr. Clinton is the UN's special envoy for Haiti, and co-chairs the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission with Jean-Max Bellerive, the country's prime minister. He is obviously someone the federal government should be in communication with. It is odd, however, that it took a "Haiti: six months on" news-cycle focus on the country to spur the interest of Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, and Bev Oda, the International Development Minister.
Mr. Cannon told reporters Monday he and Ms. Oda "intend to meet with former president Clinton in a very short while so as to be able to get from him the correct assessment as to where things are going on the ground." Canada has invested a great deal in Haiti. It was there with a sizable outlay of aid and human resources before the earthquake, and it pledged $400-million in immediate relief and long-term reconstruction aid after the country was reduced to ruins. It is therefore surprising that the Canadian government would not already be in routine contact with Mr. Clinton, whose commission's job it is to co-ordinate aid, and more than that, that a meeting with him would be necessary in order to find out "where things are going on the ground."
Surely Canadian officials in Haiti have been conveying to Ottawa a sense of the worrying stasis that has set in following the initial relief push, and the failure of donor nations to fulfill their promises to Haiti. (Mr. Clinton has said that only a fraction of the $10-billion in money committed had been disbursed by the end of last month.) If they have failed in this basic responsibility, Canadian officials in Washington at least would have been expected to apprehend a copy of the disturbing U.S. Senate report last month that stated, "There are troubling signs that the recovery and longer term rebuilding activities are flagging."
Perhaps a million Haitians still live in tents, on the street, or find shelter in damaged homes that they are afraid to leave. These destitute multitudes depend on handouts for their bare survival. The country's unemployment rate is estimated at 70 per cent or higher. Haitian government capacity remains largely non-existent. Despite the efforts of Mr. Clinton's Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, the NGOs routinely face criticism for being poorly co-ordinated or even in some instances for contributing to the problem. And international donors have failed to live up to their promises. Mr. Cannon and Ms. Oda will have much to discuss when they finally arrange their meeting with Mr. Clinton.