The latest Canadian international assignment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to be the last, International Development Minister Karina Gould said this week.
More money can be released for assistance to various countries and international NGOs in the coming months to respond to a pandemic abroad, he told CBC News on Tuesday. He also said protective equipment – such as masks and gloves – could be sent abroad at some point, but not until the government believed Canada was sufficient.
“We will continue to reevaluate our international assistance, as our prime minister said we will always look for new steps at home,” Gould said on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Canada’s Global Affairs announced $ 159.5 million in assistance to international partners. This will be distributed to organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) and provide support for vaccine development. Of the total, $ 30 million will be shared between countries that have made specific Canadian requests.
The decision to release the money came, in large part, in response to an appeal from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a $ 2 billion investment from partner organizations, the minister said.
Gould said he suspected this was not the last international request for help that Canada received during the pandemic.
Around 100 countries have requested assistance and money from Ottawa to deal with COVID-19. Global Affairs is still wading the petition and has not yet chosen a country that will get some money.
More than once, Gould pointed out that because the virus does not respect the border, it is impossible to fight it only at home.
“Now is not the time to leave each other,” he said.
Domestic and foreign investment
Gould said he was worried about developing countries with fragile health systems that had not yet experienced the full force of the COVID-19 outbreak. He said he did not want Canadian inaction to play a role in bringing the second global wave of viruses.
“The world is only as strong as our weakest health system,” said Secretary General Guterres. “If we don’t act decisively now, I’m afraid the virus will build a foothold in the most fragile countries, making the whole world vulnerable because it continues to surround the planet.”
Gould admitted his government had been criticized for sending money abroad when Canadians were financially injured (more than four million people had applied for a federal financial aid package). He said aid investment was “a fraction” of what Ottawa had promised to spend at home.
Mike Lake, a Conservative critic for international development, said he supports sending pandemic aid abroad – but the funds must be taken only from the existing foreign aid budget and the government must be responsible for where the money ends.
“It would be wise to ensure spending reaches the most vulnerable,” he said.
With Parliament suspended, Lake said he was worried the Official Opposition would not have the chance to question the Liberals who ruled about aid.
Foreign assistance can wait. At present, the Trudeau government must prioritize Canadians. pic.twitter.com/eZMuhlWJdC
Erin O’Toole, a Conservative Party leadership candidate and former critic of foreign affairs, said in March that the federal government should not send pandemic resources abroad.
“Foreign aid can wait. Right now, the Trudeau government must prioritize Canadians,” he tweeted.
Lisa Sundstrom, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, said she could not think of another point in history when the whole world faced a combined health and economic crisis.
He added that $ 159.5 million was a very small amount compared to Canada’s total foreign aid budget and the amount spent on responding to COVID-19 – but there are still good reasons to spend it.
“Even if we are truly selfish and we don’t care about suffering elsewhere, we have to compete to control it elsewhere so that we don’t face the onslaught and regurgitation of future cases here,” he said.
Supply concerns are a major concern
Dozens of Canadian NGOs praised the government’s decision to spend money on pandemic aid.
“Although the challenges we face in Canada are very heavy, the challenges that existed before our Southern partners were far greater,” reads the writing a letter The Canadian Council for International Cooperation was sent to Gould.
Refugee initiatives in places like Bangladesh, Venezuela and Uganda need increased funding to keep the novel coronavirus from spreading further, the The UN refugee agency has warned.
The government has made international investments in COVID-19, including $ 2 million for WHO and $ 50 million for many global partners. Federal liberals have been convicted of deploying 16 tons of personal protection equipment to China two months ago. The country has since sent donations of medical equipment to Canada.
Some provinces face supply shortages. Ontario says it will run out of personal protective equipment in a week and Alberta only has an N95 medical mask left over a month. Global Affairs said most of the foreign aid money would be spent on helping other countries get medical supplies.
Over the past few years, Canada has faced retaliatory attacks on the decline in international aid spending. In 2018, the OECD criticized Ottawa for allowing development funding far below the agreed target 0.7 percent of gross national income.
Canada spent $ 6.09 billion on “international assistance” in 2017-2018, according to Canada’s Global Affairs.