Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Aid groups watch changes to CIDA

Federal agency folded into new department

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WINNIPEG-based international aid organizations are cautiously watching to see what the federal government's proposed change to the Canadian International Development Agency means to them and the people they help around the world.

Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, said "the details are really important on this one.

"We want to make sure Canada is still running a coherent and effective aid program."

Cornelius said they had no idea that, after decades of discussion by different governments and no action about amalgamating the departments, it would happen now.

Cornelius said his organization and other aid groups now want the chance to sit down and discuss the changes and what it means to them and the people they help.

"We think it's vital the aid people have a clear mandate to reduce poverty and provide support to the poor and most vulnerable in the world," he said.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made the announcement on Thursday during his budget speech that CIDA would be folded into the newly formed Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Later, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino said the new department would have "the mandate of poverty alleviation and humanitarian support" and would have "no impact on Canada's international assistance budget."

Partners

Robert Granke, executive director of Canadian Lutheran World Relief, said in a telephone interview from Ethiopia that CLWR and CIDA have been partners for almost 50 years and in the last 14 years did $34 million worth of programs together.

"There's a lot of uncertainty about the new arrangement and how it will work," Granke said.

"It is how far will the government stray from what have been key mandates from CIDA. Minister Fantino says it will continue, but we are in a brand-new day."

Granke said the effect of the change is only a few months away because they haven't been able to meet with CIDA to get any new programming approved for about a year and its last existing partnership programming ends in December.

"People will start to feel the effects," he said.

"We have a three-year provisional plan to continue without support from CIDA... Even with CIDA you're looking at a year and a half by the time the submission is made, a decision, a contract, and then roll things out.

"We've known for some time a gap will occur."

Brad Reimer, a spokesman for the Manitoba branch of the Mennonite Central Committee, said they don't know how the change will affect future programs they want to do.

"It's so very new -- it just came out," Reimer said.

"We really don't know how it will impact on our work, but MCC will continue to do the work it has always done... MCC's mandate is a Christian organization which works with the poorest of the poor and that's what we'll continue to do."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 A4

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