In February the Canadian International Development Agency cut D&P's funding from $49.2 million over the next five years to $14.5 million Photo courtesy of Development and Peace

Petitions keep up pressure to restore D&P's CIDA funding

By 
  • June 27, 2012

For weeks Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace members have been getting their word in edgewise in the House of Commons.

Before Parliament broke for the summer MPs tabled about a dozen petitions asking the government to restore the Canadian bishops’ development agency’s CIDA funding to $49.2 million over the next five years. In February the Canadian International Development Agency cut that number to $14.5 million.

The petitions, most of them from Quebec, also ask the Conservatives to recommit to increasing Canada’s overseas development assistance to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product. Canada currently spends 0.34 per cent of GDP on foreign aid, one of the lowest percentages among all donor countries. The 2012 federal budget announced plans to cut development assistance a further 7.5 per cent over the next three years.

The daily reading of petitions and other member’s business doesn’t get the attention question period generates in daily news reports, but that doesn’t mean D&P members are wasting their time submitting petitions of 25 or 50 names to local MPs, said activist Paul McGuire.

“It is extremely important to take these actions,” said McGuire in an e-mail from his Ottawa home. “We are all Canadian citizens and we have the right to have a say when it comes to spending our development money.”

NDP MP Claude Gravelle said he was happy to finally have a D&P petition he could present in Parliament.

“The way Development and Peace do their petitions normally, they’re not House of Commons friendly,” said Gravelle. “When you just hand out cards for people to sign, we can’t present those petitions.”

Like most MPs, Gravelle presents every petition sent to him that meets House of Commons criteria.

“Regardless of what the petition is, I introduce it. It’s my duty.”

Conservative MP Ron Cannan wasn’t about to sign the D&P petition he got from his Okanagan Valley constituents, but he tabled it in Parliament anyway.

“We have a strong faith-based community. It just shows the importance of the faith-based community in helping provide support for aid not only nationally but abroad,” said Cannan.

Cannan is anxious to point out that his government fulfilled a Liberal commitment to double aid to Africa. Development aid is a complicated business, Cannan told The Catholic Register.

“People who sign a petition sometimes do not understanding what is being done — the fact that Canada has met its commitments,” he said.

Cannan has no comment on the dramatic cuts to D&P.

“The main thing is that the funds are delivered in the most efficient way possible to meet child and maternal health, food security and other initiatives that we’ve identified,” he said.

The funding crisis has woken up political instincts among D&P members, said McGuire.

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