Thank you for inviting me to here with my colleague, , to discuss the 2016-17 main estimates.
We are accompanied by key senior officials, Peter M. Boehm, deputy minister of international development, and Arun Thangaraj, who has the impressive title of assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer for corporate planning, finance and information technology. In other words, if there is anyone here who knows everything, it's him.
Also with us is Daniel Jean, who will stay on as deputy minister of Foreign Affairs for a bit longer. I am not surprised that the took him away from me to have him closer to him. I look forward with great interest to the work I will do with the next deputy minister assigned to me. I am told he is excellent. His current minister says he is a very talented senior public servant. We will really need him given the wonderful work Mr. Jean did under the previous and the current government.
The exercise we are about to conduct is important. Ms. Bibeau and I will try not to speak for too long so we have the time to consider the budget document, which is essential to the quality of our parliamentary democracy and the transparency we deserve. It is difficult to be transparent in the sense that the document is fairly technical. There are some essential points that I have to clarify and that will facilitate our work, I am sure.
The main estimates represent the department's projected expenditures for the current fiscal year, but I should note here, for the committee, that given the timeline for preparing and tabling the main estimates each year and the proximity of this to the budget speech, most budget announcements will instead flow in the supplementary estimates rather than the main estimates.
We will have plenty of opportunities throughout the year to exercise parliamentary oversight of these expenditures. That said, there are a few key areas I would like to highlight now before turning it over to Minister Bibeau.
The department had a net decrease of its budget of $11.3 million, if you look at these estimates, over the last year's main estimates. That's $11.3 million out of a budget of roughly $1.5 billion. How can this decrease be explained? This is what I will do now.
The decrease is mainly due to the program renewal schedules for both the stabilization and reconstruction task force, START, and the global peace and security fund. These sunsetting programs appear as a drop of $130 million in these main estimates, but new funding was announced in budget 2016. This new funding of $450 million over the next three years to renew the fund will be brought before Parliament as part of the supplementary estimates process. I hope you follow me.
There are also a few other smaller items that account for the differences between this year and last year. These include initiatives related to sunsetting funding for security upgrades and real property projects, as well as other technical adjustments that are contained in these main estimates.
Also, our operations at home and missions abroad, like so many other sectors across our economy, have not been immune to currency fluctuations. As a result, there is an increase of $62 million in the cost of payments made from Canada in foreign currencies and around $40 million for fluctuations affecting payments by our missions abroad.
Taken together, these account for the vast majority of the variance you see in the estimates before you. When looking at the main estimates by program, you will note that there has been a decrease in international security, democratic development, and international development. For the former, this reflects the sunsetting of funding of the START program I just mentioned.
As I mentioned, new funding was announced in budget 2016 and will be sought through the supplementary estimates process. The variance with respect to the international development program reflects the increased demand for humanitarian assistance, and you can see the resulting shift from this program to the humanitarian assistance program.
Madam Bibeau will have more to say about that.
I hope I have anticipated some of your questions and made the document clearer.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It is a pleasure to be here today to talk about the main estimates.
I would like to recall that this budget, as Mr. Dion just stated, is always prepared in November. So it does not include the supplementary estimates or new commitments made by our government.
The main estimates include $3.8 billion in grants and contributions, $2.8 billion of which is earmarked for international development and humanitarian assistance programs. These amounts are disbursed through our multilateral and bilateral agreements, and in partnership with well-known and experienced Canadian organizations. A sum of $1 billion is set aside for payments to international organizations.
It should be noted that these main estimates also include all administrative expenditures. That being the case, they do not allow us to focus on what probably interests you the most, namely, official development assistance or the funding envelope for international assistance.
As in the past several years, the main estimates provide initial funding of $5 billion for international assistance. In accordance with our government's priorities, this amount is increased through the course of the year through the supplementary estimates. By way of example and based on interim results, budget 2015 was increased by $270 million. Excluding this additional funding which is still available, budget 2016 provides an additional amount of $256 million over two years.
Moreover, as you know, we are currently reviewing our policies and fiscal framework. Budget 2016 already increases funding for international development starting in 2017, further to the tabling of our five-year plan.
Officially, the budget available for humanitarian assistance is approximately $320 million. Given the global context, however, large amounts are transferred each year from the development assistance budget to the humanitarian assistance budget. In 2015, $480 million was transferred, for a total of $800 million allocated to humanitarian assistance. The review of the fiscal framework will formalize this situation.
There is also the emergency fund. It is an envelope of $200 million, in addition to the residual amount carried over from the previous year, that is set aside to deal with extraordinary humanitarian crises.
It should also be noted that development assistance projects are carried out through various channels and partners. Consider for example the contributions made to major banks and international funds, the calls for proposals to directly address our intervention strategies in targeted countries, and the local initiatives funds administered by our missions abroad.
I would like to provide a brief description of some of the definitions we refer to.
The international assistance envelope, or IAE, is the main planning instrument for international development and humanitarian assistance at the federal government level. It includes expenditures from Global Affairs Canada, the International Development Research Centre, and the international assistance programmed from Finance Canada. It also includes official development assistance, ODA, both eligible and non-ODA-eligible programming—for example, security programs.
The official development assistance, ODA, is a measure and guideline for capturing spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as established by OECD's development assistance committee. It includes expenditures funded from outside the IAE, such as expenditures by the Department of National Defence; Public Health Agency of Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as well as funding from Canadian provinces and municipalities.
Based on provisional data, in 2015 Canada ranked eighth of 28 in terms of ODA volume, and fourteenth out of 28 in terms of ODA/GNI ratio, at 0.28%. In 2014 Canada ranked tenth out of 28 in terms of ODA volume, and sixteenth out of 28 in terms of ODA/GNI ratio.
That is an outline of some of the cold numbers and some of the key definitions.
I would like now to very briefly outline some of the development challenges they are addressing and the way in which this connects to my mandate on refocusing our international assistance to support the poorest and the most vulnerable, including the fragile states.
While major gains have been made in reducing extreme poverty around the world in the last two decades, today there still remain over 700 million people who live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. Conflicts are becoming more complex and difficult to resolve and are driving levels of forced migration not seen since the Second World War. Worldwide, one in every 122 persons is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. The humanitarian response system is straining under tremendous pressure.
In the last five years alone, the number of people needing basic life-saving humanitarian assistance has risen from 53 million to over 87 million. Canada is the top humanitarian donor and we remain committed to meeting the needs of those affected by humanitarian crises. Last year Canada provided $800 million in humanitarian assistance. Canada responded to communities affected by conflicts and acute food insecurity in 52 countries, and by natural disasters in 23 countries.
Our government strategy for engagement in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon includes $1.1 billion over three years, of which $840 million is for humanitarian and development assistance. This is the first time Canada is providing multi-year humanitarian assistance. Our recent announcement of $100 million for humanitarian projects in Syria and neighbouring countries is a further testament to this commitment.
When we last met, I outlined at length my priorities for you, as well as speaking about the policy review, which I will be officially announcing next week. I will simply restate my overarching focus on empowering women and girls globally and protecting their rights. As you know, this is not only a goal on its own but is essential for achieving all other goals. Our decisions will be evidence-based. We will focus on effective indicators and sound monitoring so that we can accurately track results, and we will use innovative approaches to make our dollars go further. This includes working with new partners, exploring different funding mechanisms, and ensuring that successful results are replicated and scaled up where appropriate.
Finally, in addressing international development and humanitarian assistance issues, no one political party has a moratorium on good ideas. There is a great deal of experience around this table and I look forward to working with all of you, either as a committee or on an individual basis, on these important issues.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much for your question, my dear colleague.
You are ahead of things though because I have not yet signed the protocol. I would certainly like to sign it, but it requires a great deal of preparation. We will all have to do that together. This committee will certainly have work to do in this regard.
I announced that Canada would like to join the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which would mean that the protocol would no longer be optional for Canada. As you said, it is an important agreement to ensure that the ban on torture is applied and implemented and that governments are held responsible for their actions. The membership process will require numerous consultations with other departments, with provincial, territorial, and aboriginal governments, and with Parliament.
It must be done. I think Canada has lagged behind for too long; it is really time to do it. We must first ensure that, in Canada, we have all the necessary protections against the horrors of torture.
Moreover, it is difficult to put pressure on other countries if we don't set an example ourselves and if we don't show that we take all the available tools seriously. If we want problematic countries to join the protocol, it is hard to encourage them if we are not members ourselves. In that sense, it would be a key asset to our steadfast policy of combatting torture around the world.
Thank you to everyone for being here today. Your time is very valuable. Obviously we appreciate your testimony.
The issue of Iran has come up already, but I'm interested in the issue in general policy terms, particularly because it's so important for Canadian foreign policy these days.
Mr. Minister, as you know, yesterday Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, spoke to a Senate committee. He said that in his view, engagement with Iran and continued focus on human rights are not mutually exclusive realities. This view obviously takes seriously the notion that a dialogue between states is vital for advancing human rights.
Minister, can you speak about why this government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and yourself, has taken a different approach in our relations with Iran? In particular, how might this help Canada meaningfully raise human rights concerns to the regime in Tehran?
It's because, dear colleague, this government is convinced that engagement is better than isolation, that Canada has a role to play, and that if you're not there, you don't play a role. It doesn't mean we should have closed eyes as a country. We should have open eyes. We should be very careful.
We also believe in multilateralism. Take sanctions; sanctions are effective if they are collective. If a country stops trade and others are trading, it will be barely seen in the country that is the target of the sanction, but it will affect a lot the country that decided to stop the links or to close the channels with the country.
You have a lot of exchanges between Iranian Canadians and Iran. We have an opportunity to improve the situation in this country. There are some political parties that are close to us and want to see a more liberal society—in the philosophical sense of the word, not a partisan sense. Thank God, as I said, Canada was in Iran at the end of the 1970s to rescue the U.S. hostages. We have a role to play, and our allies are asking us to do so.
There is something that I find completely incoherent in the policy of the former government. That is, you're out of Iran, but when you really need to address an issue in Iran, you use a friendly country. That was Italy. It's still Italy, and we need to thank Italy. That means Italy stays in Iran, and we use Italy, but we get out of Iran and say that everybody should get out of Iran. So why are you using Italy?
Do you see the incoherency? I think we should stop that. We'll see how we may improve the situation in order to help the people of Iran, Canadian interests, the interest of Israel, and the interest of all of our allies to make progress.
We will continue to sponsor the UN resolution of the situation of human rights in Iran, something Canada has been doing for several years, during Liberal and Conservative governments. We'll continue to do so. We have a lot of credibility to do so, especially when we will improve our capacity to understand the society of Iran of today and see where we may find room for improvement and which deterioration we need to denounce.
Minister, I'd just like to clarify, though. I don't believe that we should ever eliminate the possibility of, say, back channels with Russia. My question was specifically about the reset policy, which was a policy of communicating a reset in relations. I guess you've answered it the way you want to.
I want to ask you about the issue of human rights, though, because your government has decided to kill the Office of Religious Freedom, and we've had that debate and we probably won't get to agreement on that today. But certainly at the same time you've professed concern about religious, ethnic, and linguistic minorities.
During a debate we had on this in the House, you talked about your intention to continue this work, to expand this work, just to do it in a different way. That debate happened on March 21. We had a budget that didn't have any commitment for a new, let's say, human rights office or vehicle for delivering these things. The office was officially killed on March 31, and here we are on May 5, and despite claims about continuing to do this work, expanding this work, we have absolutely nothing in place, so we've lost time. We haven't heard an announcement.
So I would like to know—and I think Canadians and especially people affected by the good work that Canada was doing would like to know—where the plan is. Where's the plan when it comes to international human rights? The Office of Religious Freedom is gone. We've seen no replacement, no announcement of replacement. So where's the plan, Minister? When will we see it?
Colleagues, I want to take this opportunity to thank both ministers for appearing before the committee.
I very much appreciate both ministers' opening comments, in particular the comments relating to the importance that Minister and Minister place on the estimates. I think it's very important for us as a new government and as a new Parliament to look at the estimates, and the supplementary estimates that we'll have a chance to look at, as an opportunity for us to get information on behalf of the Canadian people. That really is about openness and transparency.
I want to thank you very much for this first opportunity to do so and to invite you to come back very soon, when our supplementary estimates come in.
Lastly, everyone got a chance today, which was good. This was very impressive and a good start to the relationship with these two very important ministers.
On behalf of the committee, thank you.
We'll take a short recess and then we'll come back in the second hour with the officials.
Mr. Chair, perhaps I can answer that question.
It goes back to, I think, the question that Minister Bibeau fielded in the previous session in terms of funding for the sustainable development goals. We haven't actually established priorities and identified specific activities in support of the sustainable development goals.
There are 17 goals altogether, as you know, 169 targets. We're not necessarily going to support every single goal, but at the end of the day, whatever we do will support the sustainable development goals. You say it's under the UN auspices, but whatever we do, whether it's bilateral, multilateral, or something through NGOs, it's, in all likelihood, going to support those goals, whether we end up supporting all 17 or focusing on five or six.
From a structural standpoint, our structure is very much integrated. For example, Vincent Rigby was our ADM of strategic policy. He's responsible for the strategic policy of all sectors, whether trade, foreign policy, or development. In the same way, in our geographic bureau, under the ADM for each of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific, you have people who do development and trade, and we push the envelope even more on how far we integrate.
We have created governance that integrates all the sectors. We have an executive committee that has representation from everyone. Also, under that we have a policy committee where there are representatives on all policy discussions on any of the subjects. They try to leverage the full potential of having an integrated department. It's the same for our program policy and some of our corporate policies.
As well, one of the first actions we took early in the amalgamation was to change the role of our head of mission abroad and make them truly the head integrator of the various sectors. That has led to some real success. For example, when I was in Ukraine last year, some of our like-minded allies told us that our agility to be able to respond using our tools, whether they are the stabilization tools we just described or development assistance, helped us perform very well.
We de-streamed all our executive category about a year and a half ago and are encouraging people to take assignments in others. We're now working on even more foundational work where we're going to try to establish what competencies we have.
In June, at the request of the previous minister, we had a third-party review of where we were in amalgamation. It was done by somebody who was a deputy minister many years ago and who does a lot of consulting work both in Canada and abroad. He was a deputy minister who was involved in many structural changes like this, and he basically felt we were very advanced and that, as with most exercises like this one, the biggest challenge that remained was on the cultural front. We continue to work on this.
I'd like to return to Haiti and the minister's commitment to ensure that Canadian aid and development dollars are well spent. I think Canadians were justifiably proud back in 2010 with Canada's whole-of-government response, along with other major participants in the disaster recovery operation. Since then, I think failure characterizes almost everything that's been done—other than, fortunately, keeping people alive, fed, and well-medicined.
Again, the military and policing commitment aside, I'm just wondering what the estimates specifically foresee for this year in Haiti. Other than basic survival, given that schooling has not achieved its targets, people are still living in slums...and all of this, admittedly, a result of political gridlock and no elections.
Can Canadians be any better assured that their aid and development dollars will be more effective this year than they have been for the last six?
That is noted for the record.
Colleagues, I think that concludes our opportunity to speak to both Deputy Minister Jean and Deputy Minister Boehm and his colleagues.
I want to thank you very much for your great presentations and answers to the questions. As you know, we will be calling you back for the supplementary estimates. We very much appreciate all your hard work.
Mr. Jean, good luck with your new position. Thank you very much.
Colleagues, we'll just take a couple of seconds to let our witnesses go, and then I have one report I'd like us to move and we'll be finished.
We have the third report of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. It relates to the subcommittee meeting on May 3. First is the list of priority witnesses and alternates outlined in the document prepared by the analyst for the committee's study on the countries of focus for Canada's bilateral development assistance. That needs to be agreed to.
Second, the news release for the study on the countries of focus for Canada's bilateral development assistance needs to be agreed to.
Third, the background information document prepared by the analyst for witnesses, who will appear in relation to the study on the countries of focus for Canada's bilateral development assistance, needs to be agreed to.
Fourth and finally, draft instructions for the report on women, peace, and security need to be discussed by the committee on May 10, 2016.
This is respectfully submitted, and I would like someone to move it and we'll approve it.
Hon. Peter Kent: I so move.
The Chair: All in favour.
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Just for the committee's background information, as you recall, we had a discussion about the very question that, I think, Mr. Kent was asking, and I was going to ask the same question, which was about the countries of focus and what their individual budgets were. I have written the minister on our behalf to get a breakdown of all the budgets for all the countries of focus and the countries that are partners, with the idea that the information would help us with our study. That's in the works, and hopefully we'll be getting that information very soon.
Colleagues, thank you very much for your time and your effort, and we'll see you next week.
The meeting is adjourned.