Federal Budget 2016: Is Canada Really Back?

On Tuesday, March 22nd, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau delivered the Government’s first Federal Budget of the 42nd Parliament in which it committed to modestly increase short term funding to the International Assistance Envelope by $256 million over the next two years, which Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada supports. However, the Government did not capitalize on the opportunity to match its strong “Canada is back” rhetoric with a more comprehensive plan and concrete commitments for Canadian international engagement. The Budget reaffirmed the Government's plan to develop a new policy framework in consultation with Canadians and civil society, which will form the basis for funding decisions in Budget 2017. As a result, Budget 2016 reasserts the Government’s intention to renew Canadian leadership on the global stage but has delayed the bold commitments required to deliver on that vision.

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 Following the Budget’s release, EWB’s CEO, Boris Martin, said: “Canada needs to play a leading role in the global effort to eradicate extreme poverty. EWB strongly supports the Government’s focus on poverty reduction for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. But, while the targeted investments announced in the Budget are welcome, they demonstrate cautious short-term steps toward renewing Canadian leadership on international assistance."

"In 2014, Canada’s Official Development Assistance reached historic lows with only 0.24% of GNI invested. Budget 2016 signals a very modest reversal to declining funding for the International Assistance Envelope (IAE).”

Yesterday’s Budget did succeed by highlighting financing and support for developing countries in tackling the impacts of climate change and expanding humanitarian support in response to the Syrian conflict and resettling refugees.

But it defied expectations by failing to mention the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the new universal framework for global development, despite the Budget prioritizing active and constructive participation in the United Nations and multilateral institutions. If Canada is to implement the SDGs, it will require a long-term vision, participation from the private sector, and a multi-sectoral approach to financing and investment, which was also missing from the Budget.

“While we welcome the shift in tone, Budget 2016 commitments still fall short,” added Mr. Martin. “EWB believes the forthcoming international assistance policy framework must deliver the ambitious new course for Canadian leadership that is necessary to implement the SDGs, which the Government has unequivocally committed to. Accomplishing this will require more than words and must soon be followed by robust funding increases and a steadfast commitment to leveraging all of Canada’s assets in reducing the scourge of global poverty.”

EWB and its thousands of dedicated members across Canada stand ready to bring attention to the urgent need for an effective, ambitious engagement from our country in the fight to end extreme global poverty.  Having worked throughout sub-Saharan Africa for over 15 years, EWB Canada knows too well the human costs of insufficient global attention and action. For Canada to demonstrate true leadership and vision in this pursuit, we must be willing to prioritize the needs of the world’s poor. While Budget 2016 demonstrates a positive—though modeststep forward, we expect more in Budget 2017 for the Government to demonstrate that Canada truly is back.     


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