Population Matters

Another Loose Cannon

March 18th, 2010

Two years ago, Canada’s Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier, was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had left secret government documents at the home of his ex-girlfriend, who was publicly criticized for her alleged ties with gangsters.  Long before he resigned from Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet, Bernier had become a political liability to Canada’s Conservative government.  To put it gently, he was often described as “gaffe-prone.”

Well, it looks as if Harper has another “loose cannon” at the head of the Canadian Foreign Ministry, and this time his name is Lawrence Cannon.  And while he isn’t being charged with leaving secret government documents in the wrong place, he could be charged with taking leave of his senses.

Jodi Jacobson, the editor-in-chief of RH RealityCheck, pretty well summed it up yesterday in her blog:

In an act that appears to reflect a global epidemic of political absurdity, aversion to evidence, and “un-reality” show searches for “common ground” efforts that do not address the core problems we face, the Canadian government has decided to exclude support for contraceptive programs, supplies, and information from its initiative to save the lives and improve the health of mothers in poor countries.

There’s only one small problem: You can’t “save the lives and improve the health of mothers” without family planning.

Not surprising, perhaps, this is not Cannon’s first misfire.  Cannon, who earlier this year drew praise when he said that Canada was going to make improving maternal health a primary objective of its foreign aid program, subsequently drew fire when he announced that he was temporarily suspending any increased aid to Africa pending an interagency review of earlier aid programs.  Africa, of course, has an extraordinarily high rate of maternal death.  As critics quickly noted, it’s hard to make progress on maternal health if you are suspending any new aid to Africa.

Cannon also drew multi-partisan fire earlier this month when he appointed Gerard Latulippe as president of the non-partisan Rights and Democracy organization, which is taxpayer funded.  Critics from several parties charged that Latulippe’s appointment amounted to “political interference.”

But putting Cannon aside for the moment, his latest “misfire” on family planning points to a much larger problem. Too many policymakers, not just Cannon, are quick to overlook the many benefits that flow from family planning and reproductive health services. Last year, the United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute published a report, titled “Adding it Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Family Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health.”  As that study fully documents, family planning and reproductive health services are cost-effective and desperately needed:

In the developing world, deaths and poor health among women and newborns have remained too high for too long, despite decades of international agreements declaring the need for urgent action to improve wellbeing among these groups. More effective action is needed now, especially given the strong evidence of the benefits of investing in the health of women and their newborns: fewer unintended pregnancies; fewer maternal and newborn deaths; healthier mothers and children; greater family savings and productivity; and better prospects for educating children, strengthening economies and reducing the pressure on natural resources in developing countries.

It’s too bad that Lawrence Cannon didn’t get the memo.

Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President

One Response to “Another Loose Cannon”

  1. samuel mwaniki m Says:

    The world has become a global villige,there is no Canada prosperity if there is iraq fall,there is no Developed nation tommorrow if developing nations are left to remain pull global develpmented backwardS,Futher more when resources are inadquate in third world country we waitness mass migration and international crime.i SUGGEST THIS FOR Lawrence Cannon AND OTHER WHO LACK INTERNATIONAL INCITE FOR GLOBAL FUTURE.
    I STRONGLY SUPPORT THE FACT THAT;
    More effective action is needed now, especially given the strong evidence of the benefits of investing in the health of women and their newborns: fewer unintended pregnancies; fewer maternal and newborn deaths; healthier mothers and children; greater family savings and productivity; and better prospects for educating children, strengthening economies and reducing the pressure on natural resources in developing countries.

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