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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Bill Morneau needs to wake up and smell the disaster: Mochama

In other years, Canada’s reticence on the global stage would be cause for concern. This year, it is cause for alarm.

South Sudanese refugees are seen at a 'Refugee Waiting Centre' in Al-Eligat area along the border in Sudan's White Nile state on February 27, 2017. The centre hosts refugees fleeing famine and fighting in South Sudan.

ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

South Sudanese refugees are seen at a 'Refugee Waiting Centre' in Al-Eligat area along the border in Sudan's White Nile state on February 27, 2017. The centre hosts refugees fleeing famine and fighting in South Sudan.

In the middle of an unprecedented and underfunded food crisis, finance minister Bill Morneau says Canada can do more with less foreign aid.

Asked why the Liberal government’s recently announced budget does not contain any additional funding for foreign aid, he said, “We do have a view that we can do more with less, and that creating economic success is important.”

Morneau pointed to a development finance institution that will direct money towards private companies so that they invest in projects to reduce poverty globally. Corporate incentives, while ultimately necessary, cannot be counted on in dire scenarios where there is no foreseeable profit, such as during natural disasters and famines.

More from Metro's Focus on Famine series:

As food insecurity threatens four countries, the promise of the 2015 Liberal win – sunny ways and all – isn’t being followed up by the proud internationalism of a previous era or met with the sobering sense of responsibility that propelled the party to victory.

In other years, Canada’s reticence on the global stage would be cause for concern. This year, it is cause for alarm.

The United States, traditionally the largest global donor, plans to cut 28 per cent from its international spending. President Donald Trump’s administration also plans to shrink its contribution to the UN budget.

OECD data shows that in 2015 Canada’s official development assistance was $4.24 billion US. (Official development assistance encompasses several forms of aid including loans and grants.) Last year’s budget added a modest $256 million over two years to that total. Even the addition of a $300-million development-finance institute still doesn’t bring Canada anywhere close to fulfilling a long-standing commitment of contributing 0.7 per cent of gross national income to development aid.

On this, we have been outpaced by Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. The UK is the only G7 nation that has not only met the target in recent years, but did so under a Conservative government. They took it a step further by enshrining the goal in law.

The 0.7 per cent goal was pioneered by Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. It became a key commitment of the United Nations in 1970. Canada pledged in 2005 to meet the target by 2015.

Canada has never met it.

In the meantime, there is little in the way of global leadership to meet the $4.4 billion US ask from UN agencies working to address the food crisis in northern Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

They have received only 10 per cent of that money.

To 20 million people in four countries and the constellation of agencies working for them, it is a moral failing to suggest that they do more while Canada does less.

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