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Canada is in the middle of the pack on foreign-aid spending: G8 report card

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon gave Canada high marks for its international commitments on Sunday, June 20.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon gives Canada an "A" for following through on past G8 commitments, but a new G8 report card shows Canada is in the middle of the pack when it comes to foreign aid spending.

On the eve of this week's G8 summit in Muskoka, an "accountability report" prepared jointly by G8 members was released showing that, for the most part, the big promises from past summits in areas such as aid, economic development and water issues have produced positive results.

The report praises Canada's role in funding front-line health workers, school construction and teacher training, particularly to help female students in Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Senegal.

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"The world needs the G8 and the G8 needs Canada," Mr. Cannon said in releasing the report.

But on a key measurement of foreign aid by G8 members, the report shows Canada is fourth and out of step with efforts to further increase aid by 2015.

Caroline Riseboro, of World Vision, said her organization will be watching to see what Canada offers this week in terms of long-term aid, given that the Conservative government's last budget vowed to freeze aid at current levels to balance the books.

"We're not quite sure how Canada is going to maintain its commitments, especially to key initiatives like the child and maternal health initiative, when it's going to freeze aid after this year," she said. "The issue here isn't just accountability. If it's just about meeting goals, then that will almost encourage the G8 leaders - leaders of the world's richest nations - to set low-level commitments."

Using a mix of government data and independent projections from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the report finds Canada met its 2005 pledge to double aid to Africa by 2009 and double overall aid by 2011.

But most other G-8 members are describing their progress by a different measure. Using Official Development Assistance as a percentage of Gross National Income, Canada's 0.33 per cent for 2010 places it fourth, behind Germany's 0.40, France's 0.46 and the United Kingdom's 0.60. The European Union as a whole, which has a seat at the G8, is planning to reach 0.7 by 2015. The report does not list any similar pledge from Canada.

The report's numbers aim to update the progress since the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, during which the high-profile gathering in Britain produced big, but varying, pledges from G8 members to dramatically increase foreign aid - particularly for Africa.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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