Scheer’s promise to cut foreign aid is wrong and misguided

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Andrew Scheer ought to be ashamed.

In a recent campaign announcement, Scheer pledged that if elected, a Conservative government under his leadership would slash foreign aid spending by 25 percent.

This was no slip of the tongue.

Scheer reinforced his position in a subsequent tweet, in which he wrote that, “A new Conservative government will help keep more of your hard-earned money.  We won’t send billions of your tax dollars in foreign aid to developed countries and foreign dictators.  It’s time for you to get ahead.”

It was downright disgraceful of him.

But unfortunately, it was hardly surprising.

Ever since Scheer became Conservative leader, he has had a proclivity to flirt with nativist, populist sentiment.  One need only recall his fear-mongering over irregular US-Canada border crossings.  Or his blatant appeal to xenophobic voters through his opposition to the United Nations Global Compact on Migration.

By emulating his rival, People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier, Scheer is making clear his electoral calculations.  Whenever he feels his right flank becomes too exposed to Bernier’s xenophobia, Scheer pitches his own populism to woo questioning voters back into the Conservative fold.

Scheer appears malleable enough to bend to whatever pressure Bernier levies upon him; principle be dammed.

His foreign aid announcement was simply more of the same-old, same-old.

It is not just Scheer’s nativist pitch which deserves condemnation, but also his proclivity for half-truths and lies while doing so. 

For instance, in advocating aid cuts, Scheer is leading Canadians to believe that the government has been overspending on its aid commitments. 

He is, of course, entitled to his own opinion on the matter.

But it too must be countered, because any notion that Canada is an extravagant spender on aid is simply not true.  And the data proves it. 

In 1970, the United Nations adopted the recommended benchmark of at least 0.7 percent of a country’s Gross National Income (GNI) to be spent on Official Development Assistance (ODA).  While countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom have all admirably reached this target, Canada has only ever been a laggard.

Under Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau, Canadian aid reached its highest levels.  In 1975, Pierre’s Liberal government spent a record high (at least in Canada) of 0.54 percent of ODA on GNI.

Alas, such aid spending has only decreased, particularly so once Jean Chretien’s became Prime Minister.

It was hardly any better under Stephen Harper.  During his time in government, ODA as a percentage of GNI averaged out at a mere 0.3 percent.

Justin Trudeau loyalists shouldn’t get too smug upon hearing such news.

In the four years Justin Trudeau has been Prime Minister, aid was even lower than that of the Harper Conservatives.  In fact, compared to other OECD countries, Canada remains tied in 14th place for its ODA contributions.  It’s a poor record for a G7 country. 

All Canadian’s should blush with embarrassment.

Even with this in mind though, Scheer has no yearning to increase aid spending.  Instead, he has crassly justified spending cuts by asserting that Canadian ODA is squandered through careless allocation.

Yet, as reported by CBC’s Jonathan Gatehouse, Scheer’s claim that billions are wasted upon wealthy nations or those with repressive regimes, is simply false.

Who needs the truth though, when pedalling lies can often be so effective in guaranteeing electoral support?  Certainly not Scheer.

Even though, as president of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development, Liam Swiss, has written, cuts to aid contributions will only result in “immunizing fewer children, more mothers dying in childbirth, less potable water, and more refuges suffering in conflict zones.”

Fortunately, some Canadian politicians understand the importance of foreign aid.  NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have both pledged to significantly increase Canada’s aid budget.

And both leaders also realize that alleviating poverty across the globe does not have to come at the expense of one’s own neighbour.

In particular, Singh captured this sentiment in a recent tweet: “When Andrew Scheer talks about cutting foreign aid to save money, it’s a distraction – and it’s a weakness.  Right now, 87 of the richest families in Canada have fortunes worth more than 12 million Canadians.  Tax them.”

When it comes to international assistance, Singh and May both convey a wisdom and maturity that far exceeds that of their conservative rival.

Canadian voters should take note.

Photo Credit: Conservative Party of Canada

More from Wyatt James Schierman.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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