The news has recently been filled with accolades for the $1.9 billion dollar surplus in the Federal budget. I for one am ashamed of this fact, and not proud. Balanced budgets and surpluses should not be created by turning our backs on the most vulnerable in our country and in our world. I am speaking about the unspent money from various programs- veterans, youth employment, refugees, and international development and aid that went back to the Federal Treasury to help create this surplus.

The Governments of Canada, both past and present, have failed to live up to our international commitment to contribute 0.7% to Official Development Assistance (ODA). This international aid money goes to provide food for the world’s hungry, to provide education to keep children in school, to provided life saving medicines and to end violence against women. To date we stand at 0.24%, the lowest it has been since 2003 and well below the average of many other contributing countries. Five countries have met the target of 0.7% and the United Kingdom is the first G-7 country to enshrine in law this commitment to this UN goal. Not only did Canada not meet this target, but in 2013/14 $480 million dollars of this aid budget was not spent and went back to the Treasury.

There is no excuse for Canada not to pay its fair share. We are a wealthy and privileged nation. Canada has been ranked 1st in the G-7 in terms of overall prosperity based on material wealth and personal well-being (Legatum Institute, 2014). The World Bank estimates that there are $2.2 billion people in the world living on $2 a day. Many Canadians spend that at a local coffee shop everyday without a second thought.

Canada’s good reputation on the world stage is diminishing. The Canadian Government needs to move beyond self-interest and protectionism to compassion and equality for all. During this election campaign, the Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) will be asking candidates to honour the 0.7% commitment to development so that vulnerable people around the world, including the grandmothers of sub-Saharan Africa who look after the 15 million children orphaned by aids, can hope for a better life.

Phyl Drennan
Almonte, ON
Grandmothers Advocacy Network