By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 0 Comments
David Eaves commends the launch of CIDA’s new open data site.
The site is now live and has a healthy amount of data on it. It is a solid start to what I hope will become a robust site. I’m a big believer - and supporter of the excellent advocacy efforts of the good people at Engineers Without Borders – that the open data portal would be greatly enhanced if CIDA started publishing its data in compliance with the emerging international standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative as these 20 leading countries and organizations have.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:07 PM - 99 Comments
The Scene. Bev Oda stood this to day to audibly commit various words to the official record. Really, it was the least she could do.
In keeping with the government side’s “operational decision,” John Baird stood to take the first two questions asked of the International Cooperation Minister this afternoon, but then the Liberals asked generally about the functioning of Canada’s development agency. Here Ms. Oda motioned to Mr. Baird that she could take this one and so she stood and mouthed various platitudes.
Then though, Liberal Anita Neville stood with her supplementary, wondering if, while she had the minister’s attention, she might ask some questions specific to the handling of KAIROS. And so she did. And so Ms. Oda apparently felt compelled to stand again. What followed from her had absolutely and precisely nothing to do with the particular issue at hand. But she spoke words. And she did so while standing. And that was apparently more than enough for members of the government side to leap up and applaud her when she’d finished.
Less enthusiastic was the response to another day of questions about how the Conservatives funded their campaign for high office in 2006. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 12:39 PM - 44 Comments
In an exchange with reporters yesterday after QP, John Baird explained why he was responding to questions on Bev Oda’s behalf.
Reporter: But is she unhealthy or something now? Is there some reason that she can’t respond to direct questions on her portfolio?
Baird: No, as Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, I have been responding to that issue.
Reporter: Why is that? Isn’t that her purview?
Baird: That’s an operational decision we’ve made.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 12:53 PM - 21 Comments
The Speaker heard final arguments yesterday on the matter of Bev Oda and the inartfully edited paperwork. He has promised to return to the House with a decision in due course.
In response to Ms. Oda’s statement, the foreign affairs committee—with a notable Conservative dissent—filed a report with the House. A new question of privilege was then raised with the Speaker. The next day, the government delivered its official response. Which brings us to yesterday’s interventions. Which brings us to the moment at which Peter Milliken must rule.
In addition to all that one can glean from the links above, there is the original Embassy story on the document in question.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 130 Comments
“In this case, the Minister’s decision was to reject the recommendation provided to her, and direct that CIDA not provide funding to KAIROS,” it read. “The Minister had reviewed the memo, made her decision not to approve the funding application, and asked her staff to follow through on it.
“The Minister was travelling out of Ottawa on the day that her staff completed the paper work to implement her decision, so they, with the Minister’s authority, applied her automated signature, which is used when required because a Minister is unable to personally sign a document, and indicated her decision on the memo by clearly indicating that she did NOT approve the funding application.”
This is close to the explanation offered to Embassy last October when a spokeswoman for Ms. Oda claimed it to be a matter of antiquated paperwork. Last week though, Keith Beardsley, a former member of the PMO, wrote that Ms. Oda could have simply not signed the document. Our Andrew Coyne suggests, if it was normal procedure, that there should be other documents with the same edit.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 18, 2011 at 3:42 PM - 5 Comments
After John McKay, Paul Dewar and Pierre Paquette rose on points of privilege yesterday, several more points were made after QP today, including the government’s response via Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader.
As in the Foreign Affairs committee’s report, the government’s claim is that Ms. Oda was unaware of precisely who added the “not” and as she was asked “who” (and not, say, “how”), she did not mislead the House.
After the jump, some of today’s discussion. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 18, 2011 at 1:07 PM - 60 Comments
Keith Beardsley, a former member of Stephen Harper’s PMO, sorts through the Oda Affair.
If the minister instructed someone to insert the “not” then she was probably under pressure to do so as a last minute attempt to stop the funding from going forward. Oda has been a minister long enough to know that simply refusing to sign the letter stops the funding process.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 6:20 PM - 55 Comments
The Scene. On the third day, she did stand. Bev Oda did rise up on her own two feet. She did speak publicly in response to a question posed by a Member of Parliament on the opposition side of the House. She did fulfill, in this regard, her responsibility as a minister of the crown in this democracy of ours.
Alas, it was nothing to do with the decision to reject a funding request from a group named KAIROS. It was nothing to do with how that decision was explained. Nothing to do with how a relevant document came to be so sloppily edited. Nothing to do with how Ms. Oda had explained that editing. Indeed, barring a sudden turn tomorrow, it seems Ms. Oda will escape this week without having to answer any of the questions that arose out of her statement to the House on Monday afternoon.
The government swears she has been responsible in this regard, but they won’t let her take responsibility. The government applauds her abilities, but won’t let her stand. The government expounds on her courage, but they won’t let her speak.
“I’ve been very clear to my ministers that they are responsible for the decisions they make,” the Prime Minister apparently said today.
In fairness, he did not say specifically “when” or “how” his ministers are so responsible. And we are clearly now at a point where only by asking with the correct combination of passwords can we expect to get at the truth. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 3:43 PM - 23 Comments
Shortly after Question Period, Liberal John McKay rose to raise a question of privilege related to International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda. He concluded as follows.
Privilege as you well know exists for good reason. In this instance as all others it is to compel truthfulness – even when embarrassing – even when it doesn‟t suit the government‟s agenda. Privilege exists so that M.P.s can make decisions based on fact, not on fiction. Privilege exists as a core value of democracy because M.P.s and their constituents, the People of Canada, have every right to expect that public discourse in this Chamber is without artifice. You Mr. Speaker, are the guardian of that core value – the value of truthfulness between and among Members, Ministers, and the Prime Minister. Any ruling other than a prima facie case of breach of privilege in this case will inevitably lead to another even more egregious abuse. Mr. Speaker, I and my colleagues are calling upon you to put a stop to tampered documents, to blaming others, to casual regard for facts before a Committee of the House. We call on you to uphold the highest standards of discourse by Ministers in their communication to the House. Mr. Speaker, with the additional material before you, the case for contempt is even more compelling than it was before. I am prepared to move the motion of contempt upon your direction.
His full statement is here. He was followed by the NDP’s Paul Dewar and the Bloc’s Pierre Paquette.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 1:09 PM - 23 Comments
From the Conservative dissent attached to the Foreign Affairs committee’s report.
When the Minister of International Cooperation was asked a direct question about who wrote the word “NOT” in the Kairos memo she refused to mislead this Committee. The Minister did not know who in her office had actually written the word on the document, as accurately reflected in her answer, “I do not know.”
… It must and does follow that the Minister’s answer did not in any way mislead this Committee or the House of Commons. In fact it is the Opposition that has attempted to mislead this Committee and the House both by mischaracterizing the Minister’s communication of her own decision in a way that suggests a breach of privilege.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 11:35 AM - 23 Comments
The Foreign Affairs committee has reported back to the House of Commons with its findings on Ms. Oda.
In a report tabled Thursday morning, the committee, with a dissenting minority report from Conservative MPs, cites contradictory statements Ms. Oda (Durham, Ont.) has given MPs about the origin of a single word in the recommendation that altered it to say the opposite of what the bureaucrats who submitted the recommendation to Ms. Oda had intended … The Commons must now deal with the report as it would any other committee report by debating it and voting on it, with opposition MPs at some point likely moving motions to propose actions, which could include a formal censure of Ms. Oda.
The NDP’s Paul Dewar is ready to raise a point of privilege.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 6:51 PM - 41 Comments
The Scene. The moment apparently called for an accusatorily extended index finger. But first, a flashback—subjective as it may be—for the sake of those just tuning in to this tale of Bev Oda’s woe.
“Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House the Prime Minister basically said: ‘I don’t care whether my minister doctored documents. I don’t care whether she misled the House. I don’t care whether she told the truth. I just don’t care,’” Michael Ignatieff reviewed off the top.
“This kind of disrespect for democracy just has to stop,” he continued, now turning to today. “When will the Prime Minister start showing respect for this House, respect for the people who put us here and fire that minister?”
Here is where he wagged that finger, a dramatic gesture rarely employed by the Liberal leader. Alas, it would him get no further.
“Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise of that question,” the Prime Minister pleaded. “The minister took a decision. The minister made clear that the decision was contrary to recommendations which she received from unelected officials, but in a democracy it is the elected officials who make decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money.”
Apparently here the Prime Minister meant to present us with a choice. We could have a democracy in which elected officials make decisions. Or we could have a democracy in which elected officials were expected to tell the truth and refrain from doctoring documents. But we could not have it both ways. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 12:53 PM - 43 Comments
Kenyon Wallace talks to KAIROS.
KAIROS is a faith-based ecumenical joint venture of 11 Canadian churches and organizations that promotes democratic human development and ecological sustainability in some of the world’s poorest countries … Other partners affected by the funding cut include Héritiers de la Justice, a women’s legal clinic in the Congo; the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence, an Indonesian human rights group that pressures the government to investigate past military abuses and compensates victims; and Organizacion Femenina Popular, a grassroots women’s organization in Colombia that promotes community development, education and health and legal services.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 60 Comments
She now says – in Parliament – that it was she who ordered the “not” be put in. That comment cannot be squared with her testimony at the committee. There is an onus on those who appear before committees to tell the whole truth. Stephen Harper campaigned on making the committees more effective in their work. The committees are an important vehicle for holding government to account … Ms. Oda needs to sit down again with the Foreign Affairs committee and shed some light on that “not,” and on her explanations.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 6:39 PM - 180 Comments
The Scene. The Speaker called for oral questions and Michael Ignatieff stood, rubbing his hands together. This likely had something to with the temperature, it being frightfully cold in the capital today.
But if it was a gesture—albeit a rather cartoonish gesture—of glee, it would not be without warrant. Here the opposition was once more presented with a minister of exceeding clumsiness. The Liberal leader had not so much to formulate an interrogation than relay the official record of events and then throw his hands up in the air.
“Mr. Speaker, the Minister of International Cooperation cut funding to a reputable church organization, then doctored a document from her officials to make it look as if they agreed with her judgment when they did not and then she misled the House,” he recalled.
“This is conduct unworthy of a minister,” he ventured. ”The question to the Prime Minister is, what consequence will the minister face for misleading the House and the Canadian people?”
Here the Prime Minister stood to impose his authority upon the situation. “On the contrary, Mr. Speaker,” he said.
Indeed. A senior government official with some insight into Mr. Harper’s soul told the evening news last night that Ms. Oda maintained the full confidence of the Prime Minister. And no doubt that is true. How could it not be? If making a spectacle of oneself were a fireable offence, Mr. Harper would be without much of his cabinet. Indeed, a quick review of the frontbench would seem to indicate that by doing so so spectacularly, Ms. Oda might be in line for a promotion. If she’d somehow worked a pirate metaphor into yesterday’s explanation, she might already be Finance Minister. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 1:57 PM - 63 Comments
Ned Franks, the dean of parliamentary scholars, passes judgment on Bev Oda.
“My belief is she has to go. There is no excuse for what she did. She altered a document to misrepresent a recommendation – and then she claimed she hadn’t done it. Those are two of the worst offences a minister can do,” says Dr. Franks. “She may resign but the House of Commons might still find her guilty of contempt of Parliament. The last time somebody was found guilty of contempt of Parliament was in 1913, almost a century ago. It’s a very rare thing.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 11:27 AM - 19 Comments
Glen Pearson laments for the Canadian International Development Agency.
In all the focused activity surrounded the CIDA minister at the moment, it is wise for all of us in the drama to remember that a dedicated agency has been maligned in this process and that our only hope for doing something that could be truly lasting, is to restore it to its former usefulness. It is to the Agency’s welfare and betterment that we must look if we seek to undertake our best work as MPs. To bring down or to maintain a minister is a compelling exercise, but to empower an institution, honing it for the coming international challenges ahead – that is building something that will still be functioning long after we’re gone.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 9:05 AM - 16 Comments
The crucial document in the Oda Affair was first uncovered by Embassy magazine last fall and detailed in an extensive report on KAIROS.
After soliciting feedback from CIDA sections and embassies in the relevant countries, a number of memos and background documents were prepared for Ms. Oda in advance of approving the project. ”CIDA bilateral desks and Canadian posts abroad confirm that the proposed country components of the program are strategically aligned with our country program objectives, or complement these well,” reads one of the backgrounders. ”In Mexico and Guatemala, our embassies initially expressed concern over mining activities, which KAIROS addressed.”
The tone of the memos are such that they categorically endorse the full $7.1-million proposal, saying the entire package of projects would directly and indirectly benefit 2.5 million women and girls and 2.9 million men and boys by teaching “the targeted poor their human and legal rights, together with successful negotiating techniques to obtain fairer shares of local wealth.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 8:03 PM - 154 Comments
On the specific matter of the signed recommendation from CIDA and the hand-scrawled addition to that recommendation of the word “not,” the document in question is reprinted here. When the president of CIDA, Margaret Biggs, testified before a parliamentary committee in December, she said that the “not” was not on the document when she signed it.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 5:18 PM - 57 Comments
And so the long and twisted tale of how and why an organization called KAIROS came to have an application for government funding rejected has achieved an entirely new level of spectacle with Bev Oda standing before the House this afternoon to simultaneously apologize, accept responsibility and maintain her innocence.
Her statement, delivered shortly after Question Period, below. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 11:05 AM - 3 Comments
Here then an interesting test of the system’s ability to demand and require the whole truth. After Question Period on Monday, Liberal John McKay rose on a point of privilege to assert that International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda had misled the House on the matter of KAIROS.
One is left with a clear impression that the decision to not recommend was made after the minister’s signature had been appended to the document. The minister does not know who put in the interlineations and therefore cannot tell the House who made the decision, when the decision was made and why the decision, approved by the agency and possibly by the minister herself, was reversed.
It is a prima facie case of contempt to mislead members by blaming others for one’s decisions. It is misleading to say that one made a decision when no decision was made. It impairs a member’s core function of holding a government to account. It erodes the doctrine of ministerial accountability.
Jim Abbott, formerly Ms. Oda’s parliamentary secretary, stood after to take issue with Mr. McKay. Bob Rae and Paul Dewar added their thoughts yesterday. The government has asked the Speaker to allow Ms. Oda time to respond before ruling.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 13, 2010 at 10:10 AM - 35 Comments
CIDA President Margaret Biggs told MPs Thursday the “NOT” wasn’t there when she recommended the minister approve funding to help an estimated 5.4 million people in developing countries. CIDA Minister Bev Oda told the same parliamentary committee she could not say who had added the word “not,” but that the final decision to scrap funding to KAIROS was consistent with the Conservative government’s priorities … At first, Oda said she signs off on all documents but then said she didn’t sign the memorandum that has her signature.
By John Geddes - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
UN’s millennium development goals
When world leaders converged on the United Nations last week to talk about what must be done to achieve the UN’s millennium development goals, Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t alone in stressing the need for “accountability” and “real results.” In trying to keep donor countries committed to the targets for dramatically reducing global poverty by 2015, the UN is battling skepticism fostered by frequent reports of funding being siphoned off by corrupt regimes or wasted in stopgap programs.
Only a few days after the conference in New York City, the MasterCard Foundation was in Ottawa touting a $5-million donation to a little-known Canadian group that’s pursuing a strategy that seems to avoid those foreign-aid pitfalls. Founded in 2001, Digital Opportunity Trust hires university graduate “interns” in developing countries, and puts them to work close to home teaching their skills in information and communications technology to potential small-scale entrepreneurs. “The communities they go into are the communities where they’re from,” says DOT founder Janet Longmore. “The critical thing was to make it locally owned.”
Longmore says relying on local talent and ideas has helped DOT grow fast, to about 400 interns in 11 countries, from Lebanon to Ethiopia, overseen by a small staff in Ottawa. (The group also runs programs to bring technology to schools.) The $5 million from MasterCard is earmarked to allow DOT to hire 500 interns to foster IT-based entrepreneurship in Kenya and Rwanda—everything from crafts co-operatives and artists creating websites, to community newspapers and small-scale tourism operators going online. It’s a path to self-sufficiency that’s attracting attention—and serious money—from donors looking for alternatives to old-style development assistance.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the MasterCard Foundation as U.S.-based. In fact, it is headquartered in Toronto.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 3, 2010 at 2:51 PM - 0 Comments
During an interview, she talked freely about the importance of family planning in maternal health — a theme she touched on in the blogs she wrote while away. She emphasized that the government supports International Planned Parenthood, with which it is in active talks about extending funding. We even discussed abortion. The tone of the conversation struck me as notably different from what I had heard from other government officials throughout last spring’s debate on maternal health.
By Thursday afternoon, there were opposition calls for clarification of the government’s policy on family planning and abortion. A Catholic group even called for the minister’s resignation. And the minister called me back, hoping to clarify some of what she had said. Oda made it clear that none of the $1.1 billion earmarked for maternal health would go to fund abortion, although it would be used to support family planning initiatives. However, she conceded, Canada would, if asked, provide general health funding, outside of the G8 initiative, to governments who provide abortion services. Canada, in other words, may indirectly fund abortion services — by training doctors who sometimes perform abortions or improving maternity wards where abortions are legally provided, for example.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 12:34 PM - 0 Comments
The Globe’s Geoffrey York finds an unnamed aid organization which has received funds from the Canadian government and performs abortions in African countries where the practice is illegal.
The financing that it has received from the Canadian government in recent years is not for its abortion services, but for other health services that it provides. The agency, like a number of other health providers in Africa, has felt compelled to provide abortions at its clinics – despite the risk of jail for its staff – because the alternative for pregnant women can be death or maiming by dangerous backstreet practitioners.