08 March 2010

The federal budget and foreign aid: more guns, less butter

The recent federal budget illustrates more than one disturbing trend in Canadian policies. One of the worst is the increasing disparity between our commitment to the military and our commitment to foreign aid. We already spend four times as much on defence as we do on aid, and the budget will aggravate this unfortunate priority.

Our current defence budget of $19-billion will receive previously planned increases for another two years, and two per cent per year after that when every other area of government will get nothing. The foreign aid budget, on the other hand, will get one more year of increase to $5.2-billion and will then be frozen. Foreign aid will be a major contributor to the government's deficit-cutting plan. Our aid commitment will shrink steadily from the current 0.32 per cent of GDP, already our lowest ranking yet as a major donor -- 18th place out of 22 -- and a long way from the United Nations' target of 0.7 per cent. If we cut the defence budget in half and doubled the foreign aid budget, the two would be equal, a much more humane and sensible ratio, and in the bargain we would meet the United Nations' target.

Aside from further eroding Canada's image in the world, spending ever more on guns and ever less on butter doesn't seem a sensible way to create a more peaceful and prosperous world.

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