An open letter to all candidates in the 2019 federal election

By: Lisa Published: 01/10/2019

Dear candidates,

Canadian aid has made its way into the election conversation and RESULTS Canada would like to share some important information you should know when speaking about the importance of development investments during your local debates, media interviews and while knocking on doors.

What is foreign aid?

Canadian aid, or Official Development Assistance (ODA), is financial support given by high-income countries like Canada to promote the economic development and welfare of low-income countries. Sometimes it means Canada supports humanitarian non-governmental organizations that work in countries where a disaster or a war has hit, like the Red Cross. Other times, it goes through multilateral organizations like the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations, or the World Bank to help provide essential services like health and education in countries where too many people still can’t access them. This multilateral spending is often one of the most cost-effective ways of spending foreign aid.

Canadian aid is used to reach those most affected by poverty

  • When Canada delivers aid it must meet three criteria: contribute to poverty reduction, take into account the perspectives of those living in poverty, and be consistent with international human rights standards.
  • The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies which countries are eligible for ODA. Upper-income countries do not qualify.
    • Global Affairs Canada does send money to some wealthy countries but it is not part of the aid budget and goes to funding things such as:
      • The Global Equality Programme received $200,000 in 2018 to help threatened LGBTQ communities in Russia under threat.
      • Italy – received $2 million as part of earthquake relief in 2017.

Canadian aid is effective

  • Canada supports projects that are effective at helping those who need it most. In recent years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has significantly decreased, fewer children are dying of preventable illness and more women are surviving childbirth. Health is improving globally, as are education levels, and Canadians should be proud of their contribution to these global successes.
  • In 2017, 90% of Global Affairs Canada’s (GAC) aid targeted gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. By 2021, it will increase to at least 95%.[1] This is critically important because as many experts know we can’t end extreme poverty without gender equality.
  • Canadian aid supports those disadvantaged by climate change, whether in humanitarian contexts, infrastructure, health, and/or well-being.
  • Canada has been a leading voice in multilateralism around the world and has been a leader in creating many highly successful international initiatives, like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (which has helped save 27 million lives since 2002), or Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (which has provided life-saving immunization to 760 million children from low-income countries). Investing in multilaterals helps leverage Canada’s contributions to have greater impact.

Canadian aid is transparent and held to high standards of accountability

  • When Canada invests money abroad, GAC must follow a strict risk assessment process that reduces the potential of fraud or misuse of government funds.
  • GAC is in fact recognized around the world for its capacity to limit any chance of corruption or fraud in its programs, even in complex situations like humanitarian emergencies, and strict monitoring helps ensure that development projects and programs achieve their expected results.
  • Canadian aid is tracked and monitored by the OECD development assistance committee, and consistently ranks in the ‘Good’ category of the Aid Transparency Index.

What could an increase to aid mean?

  • According to a conservative estimate made by leading researchers every 1% increase to Canadian aid could result in 7,500 avoidable deaths if spent on health interventions.
    • If an increase in aid were to be spread across health, education and humanitarian assistance this would result in 2,500 avoidable deaths a year (10,000 over 4 years), 1 million more girls in school, and 16,000 more displaced people with food and shelter, for each 1% increase in spending.[2]

Canadian aid is supported by the majority of Canadians

Findings from a recent poll conducted by Nik Nanos and Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health[3] revealed that:

  • 81% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that Canada should do its fair share along with other countries to help developing countries.
  • 76% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that Canadians have a duty to support the health, education and economic opportunity for the world’s poorest and most marginalized people.

Canada is far behind

  • Though Canada currently has the strongest economy of the G7 countries, the group of the seven largest advanced economies in the world, it ranks near the bottom in aid provision.
  • In 2017, Canada ranked 16 out of 20 donors in official development assistance as a percentage of gross national income (GNI).
  • Top donors include Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, and the UK, while Japan, Italy and the United States fall near the bottom.

We want candidates to be aware of the facts, that aid does work and that we consistently see the lives of people living in poverty change for the better. Let’s continue to invest in the health and well-being for all.


Chris Dendys

Executive Director


[1] Inter-Council Network. Canadain Perspectives on International Development: Report on Results

[2] Robert Greenhill and Celine Wadhera. On paying its global share, Canada’s not back—it’s far back. Open Canada.

[3] Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health. 2019. Canada Cares: Canadians increasingly support development aid and global health funding but question progress on fighting global poverty.

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