Conservative leader Andrew Scheer addresses the media during a morning announcement in Toronto Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives promise to slash Canada’s foreign aid by 25 per cent

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A Conservative government would slash Canada’s foreign aid spending by 25 per cent, withholding international assistance from developed countries such as Italy and Brazil and focusing it instead on the poorest countries, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced Tuesday.

Speaking in Toronto, Scheer said he would use the $1.5 billion in savings to put money “back in the pockets of Canadian families.”

“First we’re going to reprioritize foreign aid so that it is focused on countries in greatest need while using the savings to help Canadians like you get ahead,” Scheer said, as he announced his party’s four-point plan on foreign and national security policy.

“Second, we’re going to reinvigorate our traditional allegiances with countries that share Canadian values. Third, we’re going to reprioritize human rights in our international affairs and embrace new legal tools to which we can hold hostile regimes accountable. And fourth we will depoliticize military procurement to prevent future partisan abuses.”

Redirecting foreign aid and focusing on children in conflict zones

Children play outside a classroom in Konyokonyo camp for the internally displaced people in Juba, South Sudan February 5, 2018. (Samir Bol/REUTERS)

Scheer said while the majority of Canada’s current foreign aid is well-spent and goes to countries mired in structural poverty or facing a humanitarian crisis, “a significant chunk of Canadian foreign aid money” has been directed by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to countries that don’t fit that description.

“The Trudeau government today sends $2.2 billion of so-called foreign aid to middle- and upper-income countries like Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, China, Iran, Italy, Mexico and Turkey,” Scheer said. “Worse still, some of that money is shuffled to repressive regimes that are adversarial if not outright hostile to Canadian interests and values: countries like Iran, North Korean and Russia.”

The Liberal government also supports the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), which Scheer described “as openly anti-Semitic” and supporting terrorist organizations such as HAMAS.

“At the time when Canadians are working harder than ever and not going ahead, Trudeau is using their hard-earned tax dollars to support anti-Semitic organizations and prop up foreign dictatorships,” Scheer said. “It’s time for Canada to put our money where our mouth is and only use foreign aid to support the Canadian values we hold dear.”

Children sit on the floor inside a classroom in Konyokonyo camp for the internally displaced people in Juba, South Sudan January 31, 2018. (Samir Bol/REUTERS)

Canada will redirect $700 million in aid to countries facing “grave humanitarian or refugee challenges” in Sub-Saharan Africa, which will receive more aid under the Conservative plan than they do now, Scheer said.

“We’ll ensure a special focus on children in conflict zones,” Scheer said.

The Conservative leader said their policy announcement would not affect groups receiving aid to provide abortion and maternal health services to women and girls abroad.

“We are not reopening this debate at any level. What this is about is which types of countries will receive financial assistance. And so, groups that are receiving funding will continue to receive funding going in future,” he said.

“This decision does not affect groups or programs going forward.”

According to Global Affairs, Canada spent more than $6 billion on international assistance during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The top five recipients were Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mali and Nigeria.

Aid groups concerned by proposed cuts

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), a national association representing international development and humanitarian organizations, said it is concerned about the proposed 25 per cent cut to Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA).

“International development and humanitarian assistance are important parts of Canada’s global leadership that contribute to visible impacts,” CCIC said in a statement.
“For example, South Korea went from a major aid recipient to an important trading partner for Canada and the world. In as little as 25 years, Rwanda, after suffering a vicious genocide, has gone from crisis to develop into a model of economic development for many on the African continent.”

The statement appealed to the Conservatives’ “long history of leadership in international development and humanitarian assistance” and urged them to reconsider their foreign aid policy.

“The G8 Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) launched in 2010 by the Conservative government was widely acclaimed in Canada and abroad,” the statement said, referring to the initiative launched by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

“CCIC welcomes further discussions with the Conservative Party of Canada on international assistance, and how Canada can continue to be a global leader in a fast changing and interconnected world.”

More support for Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen sit on an APC during military drills near Urzuf village not far from the city of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine on Nov. 29, 2018. (Sega Volskii/AFP/Getty Images)

Scheer also attacked Trudeau’s record on the world stage, citing his opponent’s trip to India, his “gushing” praise for Fidel Castro and his “one-sided” trade concessions to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scheer was asked whether the cuts could affect Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

“It’s more important to me that I help Canadians get ahead than curry favour at the United Nations,” he replied. “That is our priority. That is our focus.”

During his announcement, Scheer also committed to providing additional support to Ukraine.

“This will include expanding our current missions to support Ukraine and providing Ukraine’s military with the equipment they need to defend their borders,” Scheer said. “I will also push for Canadian leadership in a United Nations peacekeeping mission to secure those borders.”

The Conservative plans calls for Ottawa to provide military defensive aid to Ukraine’s military and restore Kyiv’s access to intelligence gathered by Canada’s RADARSAT-2 satellite.

Scheer did not elaborate how he proposes to push for a UN peacekeeping mission in Ukraine, given that it would have to be authorized by the UN Security Council where Russia has a veto.

The Conservative Party is also promising to follow in the footsteps of the Trump administration and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the Canadian embassy there.

With files from CBC News

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