Foreign aid cuts focus on accountability, Oda says

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda says Canada isn't the only country cutting foreign aid, and it's more important to focus on results and accountability than dollar amounts.

Canada not alone in trimming foreign assistance budget, international co-operation minister says

A Conservative minister is defending budget cuts to Canada's overseas aid spending as an exercise in accountability.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says that a number of other countries, not just Canada, are making cuts to foreign aid.

"It's wrong to measure a country's effectiveness of making a difference in the world only by its inputs and the dollar amount," Oda said Tuesday.

"We have internationally led the way on the results focus on accountability for how money has been used and many countries are also following Canada's way in that regard."

Canada's foreign aid spending is one the many items on the Conservative chopping block in the government's efforts to trim the deficit and reduce overall spending.

Oda was asked about the issue during a conference call with reporters from Ukraine, where she was on a visit to support economic and democratic development.

CIDA downsized in federal budget

The recent federal budget will see almost $380 million, or 7.5 per cent, stripped from Canada's aid budget.

Oda said Canadians want to help those less fortunate, and are very generous, but they also want to be sure public dollars are making a real difference.

"We have retained a strong commitment to various developing countries around the world," she said. "We also have to balance that with good use of public funds."

Critics say that even in a time of fiscal restraint the government can't justify cutting aid spending.

"Cutting aid is no way to balance the books," Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said recently.

"Even small cuts in aid cost lives as people are denied life-saving medicines and clean water. Aid is such a tiny part of budgets that cutting it has no discernible impact on deficits -- it is like cutting your hair to lose weight," he said in a statement.

Oda insisted accountability is just as important, or perhaps more important, than dollars spent. She suggested the previous Liberal governments were more focused on the amount of money in question.

"There was less accountability of how that money was spent" in the past, she said.