Even when it’s not fake news, it’s misleading

With Trudeau announcing he’ll run for Prime Minister again and the 2019 election very slowly crawling closer, discourse on Facebook is once again deteriorating.

One thing that’s been going around is “Trudeau hands out billions to other countries while Canadians stand in line at food banks” along with a picture of Trudeau and a list of countries or organizations that “Trudeau has provided direct cash aid to.”

While I haven’t checked every single figure, the overall take away is that Canada spent roughly $5 billion on foreign aid last year under Trudeau isn’t wrong.

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However, the implication of the Facebook post is that other political parties wouldn’t be spending as much money on foreign aid. So, for comparison, the Conservative government, under Stephen Harper spent $5.65 billion on foreign aid in 2012 and $5 billion in 2013. To throw some further numbers into the mix, that $5 billion amounts to 0.26 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI). At one point, under Harper it was 0.32 per cent of GNI. Under Brian Mulroney, it reached 0.5 per cent. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks that if the NDP or Green Party were to come into power, that foreign aid would decrease.

In other words, if you don’t want Canada to spend much money on foreign aid, JT’s your guy (or at best it’s a toss-up between him and the Conservatives).

Compared to allies with a similar level of development, Canada is actually spending very little on foreign aid. In 2016, Norway spent $812.58 per capita on foreign aid, Sweden $701.10, the Netherland $338.38, Germany $214.73, France $137.59 and Canada $122.04.

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Now, even with that contextual information, the reasons someone might oppose spending money on foreign aid haven’t changed. Personally, I would be inclined to attest that spending money on foreign aid reduces unrest but that’s not really borne out by the evidence with most academic studies coming up with pretty murky results so far on both fronts.

I’m not exactly defending Trudeau either.

He’s broken plenty of promises and hasn’t started on many others. That’s if you liked what he was promising in the first place. Furthermore, he’s had plenty of public gaffes and the handling of multiple prominent issues has been questionable.

There’s plenty to critique Trudeau on as we’re slowly heading into another election. However, let’s make sure we’re forming our opinions on more than a single jpeg image or 140 characters. As George Ostoforoff said last week, “we are not the USA and I for one am proud of that fact.”


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