Nossal: Is the folding of CIDA into DFAIT the end or a fresh start for Canadian international development?

By: /
April 1, 2013

Folding CIDA into DFAIT will bring to an end some of the effects of decisions 45 years ago that created an agency that was unlike other federal departments. Although it traditionally has had the second-largest discretionary budget of any federal department, CIDA was never given a statutory mandate. Indeed, it did not have its own minister for many years; instead, its operations were overseen by overworked foreign ministers (and even when CIDA finally got its own minister, they were invariably junior members of cabinet). The semi-autonomous bureaucratic culture that developed as a result of these structures was exacerbated by physical separation: CIDA was housed over the Ottawa River in Gatineau, far from the other departments involved in Canada’s international policies, particularly the foreign policy and trade sides of DFAIT in the Pearson and Diefenbaker Buildings. Returning CIDA to the foreign ministry will not be easy, but it will ensure greater political control over Canadian development assistance efforts. And while such politicization may take Canada’s development assistance policies in new directions, it is likely to produce greater policy coherence than the existing bureaucratic-political arrangement.