International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda has treated us to another example of why so many Canadians are tuning out politics and not fully participating in our democracy, especially at election time. The minister apparently decided to reverse her staff’s recommendation that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) fund KAIROS, a religious international justice advocacy group. She had every right to do this, but chose to be disingenuous about it.
A 2009 memo to Oda contained a recommendation from her department’s staff that KAIROS receive funding of about $7 million. Oda apparently disagreed with that advice and had the memo changed to reflect her decision—the word ‘not’ was inserted by hand so that the department recommendation then read:
“Recommendation: That you sign below to indicate you [NOT] approve a contribution….”
By that time Margaret Biggs, CIDA’s president, and Naresh Singh, another CIDA official, had both signed off on the positive recommendation. By inserting ‘not’ Oda certainly gave the impression the CIDA officials had also not approved the funding.
If this was not shameful, it was, at least, an example of the sort of clumsy ineptness one should not expect from a minister of the crown with responsibility for millions of taxpayer dollars.
Opposition MPs claim Oda told the Commons foreign affairs committee in December 2010—when asked who wrote the word “not” on the document—she did not know. Now she has reversed herself.
“The ‘not’ was inserted at my direction,” Oda admitted yesterday in the House of Commons. “Given the way the document was formatted, allowing only for concurrence, this was the only way to reflect my decision.”
Even her mea culpa sounds silly and misleading, for surely that was not the only way to reflect her decision. And to compound Oda’s gaffe, St. Catharines Conservative MP Richard Dykstra attempted to defend her actions on CTV’s Power Play. Bad behaviour is just that, regardless of who’s side one is on. Surely we’re better than this.
Sad really when a truthful explanation from the beginning would have avoided all this fuss.