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Where do the major political parties stand on development going into the election?

by Bridget Steele and Aniket Bhushan

Updated: October 10, 2019

This analysis provides a quick overview of major party platforms and policy ideas related to development going into the 2019 Canadian federal election.


Key platform commitments:

  • Continue to increase international assistance “every year towards 2030” recognizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Improving management, effectiveness, transparency and accountability.
  • Spending no less than 10% of assistance on education (especially focusing on children and refugees).


While a full platform has not been released to date, “cuts to foreign aid” have been announced as the centerpiece of a set of costed foreign policy measures.

  • Cut foreign aid by 25%. PBO costed measures table indicates cuts yielding $1.5 billion per year. This (alongside “eliminating corporate welfare”) makes it the single largest fiscal measure.
  • Reduction will come from middle and upper income countries and will be used to pat for domestic policies. $700 million also to be redirected to “countries that need it most”.
  • However, confusingly, the total above therefore exceeds $1.5 billion or 25% in IAE cuts (assuming an IAE level of approx $6 billion). To this end and adding to the confusion the backgrounder refers to “$2.2 billion in Canada’s aid going to high and middle income countries defined as having HDI over 0.6. This claim has been discredited, including by our analysis, which found a max of $1.1 billion in 2018 going to countries over 0.6 HDI, but, which importantly includes key partners like – Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon among others.
  • Withdraw Canada from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
  • Strengthen alliances and provide additional military and non-military aid to Ukraine.
  • Move Canadian embassy to Jerusalem; reopen Office of Religious Freedom; host of measures on military procurement.

New Democrats

NDP’s platform, as in the past, promises to increase international assistance (which is at 0.28 as a share of gross national income currently) significantly.

  • Recognizes 0.7% ODA/GNI target, and aims to meet the same (which would imply a 2.5x increase in aid levels).
  • Increase contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, Malaria.
  • Leadership on women and girls rights and security.
  • “Global leadership role” in helping developing countries deal with impacts of climate change.


Green’s platform makes ambitious and significant commitments on development. In fact the entire Green platform is organized by and aligned with the SDGs.

  • Increase budget to 0.7% ODA/GNI (same as NDP).
  • Re-establish an independent ‘Canadian International Development Agency’.
  • Eliminate requirement that aid be tied to Canadian business interest or strategic geopolitical interests (note: Canadian aid is officially almost 100% untied).
  • Ramp up contributions to the Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility to $4 billion annually by 2030. This would make Canada one of the top donors in each. However it should be noted Canada already is a major contributor to both (ranking in the top 7).
  • Align federal policies with SDGs, track and report progress.

Other positions and our take-away

Other party positions worth keeping in view include, Bloc – no specific allusion to international development – and PPC which has promised to “phase out aid” and focus solely on humanitarian assistance in emergencies.


The Conservatives plan to significantly cut aid – which would take Canada’s ratios to its lowest historical levels – have elevated discussion on this issue, arguably, for all the wrong reasons. The level of misinformation has been extreme and repeatedly discredited (see: CBC, and our analysis).

Discussions regarding Canada’s role in this space on the global stage have become unusually polarized (certainly compared to past elections). Parties with the least probability of governing (but a significant chance of holding the balance of power) such as the NDP and Greens have aggressive targets and positions. Their realism is questionable, arguably also for some proponents. However, the Greens were the only ones to publicly defend development spending and the SDGs during the recent English language leaders debate. The incumbent Liberals, on this issue, despite the significant shifts in terms of implementing a Feminist assistance policy, seem unwilling to go too far to defend their own record. Perhaps because despite some notable successes they recognize important gaps.

The best post-election scenario for development advocates might be a weakened incumbent, i.e. Liberal minority with support from progressives (either or both the NDP and Greens).

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