Canada and the world

On Nov. 9, Engineers Without Borders held an all-party forum at the University of Waterloo addressing Canada’s role in the international community.

Peter Braid of the Conservative Party Kitchener-Waterloo (KW), Cathy MacLellan of the Green Party of Canada KW, Andrew Telegdi of the Liberal Party KW and Peter Thurley of the New Democrats Kitchener-Centre each addressed their parties’ approach to international development and foreign policy.

“An important part of this country’s role is to be a responsible global partner,” said Peter Braid, who is the current member of parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo.

Braid emphasized the progress already made by Canada in global development under the current government. “Our government is on track to double international assistance with a planned budget of $5 billion by 2010.”

The other forum delegates remained critical of Canada’s current standing in the international sphere.

“If you say something like ‘we’re doing the best that the government has ever done and we’ve increased funding by a certain amount, I would like to see data to back that up,” challenged MacLellan.

The candidates discussed former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s target of spending 0.7 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on foreign aid and the government’s failure to ever reach that.

“We’re at an all time low for the [Official Development Assistance] ODA budget,” said Thurley.
Currently, only 0.28 per cent of the GDP funds foreign development.

Further concern surrounded the choice in countries Canada is supporting with foreign development aid.

“When did we become a country [in which] our bottom line depends on whether or not we’re making big bucks?” said MacLellan, questioning the shift in aid funding from African countries to trade partners in South America.

Braid noted that our government is now providing support for both American and African countries.

“Yes, we reduced our focus to 20 [African] countries, but that’s to improve our results,” said Braid.

The rest of the forum remained in opposition of the current placement of aid.

“It’s moving in the wrong direction,” said Telegdi.

Thurley, in agreement with Telegdi, stated, “Let’s live up to our commitments not in terms of what we can get out of it but in terms of what we can give.”

Canada’s commitments to international policies, including environmental reform, were also discussed.

“We are a country that signs on to things and either does nothing or [does] the opposite of the intention,” criticized MacLellan.

Defending the Conservative government’s targets of lowering emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, Braid noted that it “is slightly more ambitions than the American targets.”

Despite such targets, the country’s efforts in tackling climate change were deemed insufficient by other delegates. “Canada has been winning the fossil award at international conferences,” said Telegdi.

In response to issues raised during the discussion, Telegdi, MacLellan and Thurley shared similar desires to improve Canada’s involvement in international organizations, such as the United Nations and the G20.

“Canada … believes in the multilateral approach,” said Telegdi,

“We need to help each other out,” added MacLellan, stating that it is important to have a united front on the international level when approaching global issues.

Unlike the other delegates, Braid shared a view for Canada as a leader in the world order. “We are not a middle power, we want to be and we are a principle power.”

Regardless of the parties’ differences in approach to foreign policy, they all agreed that Canada must maintain a strong role in the international community.

“Long gone are the days that we can ignore what’s going on in other parts of the world,” said Telegdi.

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