A quiet cut?

Did hundreds of millions in CIDA funding just lapse?
Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino stands in the House of Commons during Question Period, Friday March 16, 2012 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Postmedia hears that as much as $800 million in funding for CIDA might have just lapsed.

But experts and critics charge letting hundreds of millions of aid dollars lapse is indicative of incompetence on Fantino’s part – or an intentional effort to reduce aid spending in the hopes no one would notice.

“We don’t find out until almost a year later,” said Canadian Council of International Co-operation president Julia Sanchez. “These are cuts in effect. Massive cuts without any transparency.” “The CIDA minister may spin this as prudent financial management, but the real fact is that the decision to not spend these funds was not debated in Parliament, not reported to Parliament or its budget office, and most obviously not debated publicly,” said Jackson.

Liam Sweet is concerned.

An anonymous former CIDA colleague of mine put it bluntly and suggested that several programs were indeed frozen in the same manner as Haiti, calling the Haiti freeze only the “tip of the iceberg.”  Indeed, the official stated that as of early January 2013 Pakistan had been without a country strategy for going on two years, and therefore had seen no new bilateral project approvals in that time. Between January and the end of March, a single new project to support elections in Pakistan was approved – the first in two years.  Other countries had been treated similarly.  Still, requests for much-needed support – even those in line with CIDA priorities like maternal, newborn, and child health – pile up awaiting ministerial approval. Arguing that this suits the government of the day perfectly as their top priority is deficit reduction rather than aid, my former colleague paints a bleak picture of the priorities of the leadership within Canada’s aid agency.  Through even the informal freezing of these programs, CIDA is wilfully under-spending its precious aid budget in some of the most complex and deserving of its recipient partner countries.

See previously: The quiet cuts