Fantino pledges to bring fiscal responsibility to CIDA

Julian Fantino, the new minister for international co-operation chosen to replace Bev Oda, says he's got the experience necessary for the job and is eager to get a handle on his new department.
Julian Fantino says he wants to ensure that 'every nickel' CIDA spends on aid is accounted for and provides value. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Canada's new minister in charge of international aid, Julian Fantino, says he's qualified for the job, eager to dig into his new portfolio and will bring fiscal responsibility to the Canadian International Development Agency.

Fantino was shifted out of his role as associate minister of national defence by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday in a mini cabinet shuffle and given the job of international co-operation minister. Fantino replaces Bev Oda, who announced a day earlier that she is retiring from federal politics at the end of July.

Oda made the announcement on her website and did not provide a reason for her resignation. The MP for Durham in Ontario has been the subject of repeated controversies related to her spending habits.

In an interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Friday, Fantino told host Hannah Thibedeau that he plans to ensure that "every nickel" that CIDA spends on aid is accounted for and provides value.

The former Toronto police chief and commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police said fiscal responsibility and accountability will be priorities for him at CIDA.

"I would be bringing that kind rigour if you will, to this particular position regardless of what else is going on," he said.

Aid priorities unchanged

Fantino indicated he doesn't plan to change CIDA's current priorities for aid delivery: food security, economic growth and children and youth.

"I don't really see any need to shift away from those, those are recently identified priorities," he said.

Fantino, the MP for Vaughan near Toronto, said he wants to get up to speed as quickly as he can on his new portfolio and then would be happy to discuss further what changes, if any, he will undertake at CIDA. He did say that he wants to improve the level of recognition internationally that Canada gets for its work and contributions in countries in need.

"We don't seem to be receiving that kind of well-earned recognition," said Fantino.

He said he's humbled to be given the job of international co-operation minister and that he believes he's well-suited for it. In addition to his various police jobs, Fantino's pre-politics resumé also includes the position of Ontario's commissioner of emergency management.

"I've been around a little bit. I believe that I have an international perspective. I've had considerable experience managing events and dealing with unforeseen, unplanned circumstances," Fantino said, giving the earthquake in Pakistan in 2011 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as examples of what he has dealt with in his previous jobs.

"I believe that I can bring that experience and my ability to work with people into this particular portfolio and improve and continue to work on a very important aspect of Canadian policy on the international front," he said.

Oda has been keeping a low profile since she announced she is quitting on July 31. She has declined repeated interview requests from CBC News.