EWB’s Hill Day: A behind-the-scenes look at advocating for Canada’s DFI
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has been an advocate of Canadian action on development finance and its mission since 2013. Operationalizing it in Budget 2017 is a policy win, a realization of efforts and years of lobbying work surrounding DFI. The commitment to the DFI, given its potential to address “the missing middle” (or the finance gap), is worth celebrating both at an organizational and personal level.
Campaigning on Parliament Hill
I had the privilege of participating in the Day of Action (aka Hill Day) that EWB organized last year. It was an opportunity to push for a policy that I felt was needed and to exercise my voice as an active citizen. At the time, we were not expecting the government to be committed to establishing a Development Finance Institution 10 months afterwards.
I remember Hill Day as a productive slumber party. We spent a whole day at an advocacy boot camp, which consisted of a series of workshops and presentations to prepare us for meetings with Members of Parliament (MPs). After the bootcamp, we stayed up all night at our dorms researching case studies, practicing elevator pitches, and repeating mock meetings both with and without the timer.
The following day, I was scheduled for two meetings: one with MP Francesco Sorbara and the other with MP Bob Saroya. Initially, my delivery felt sub-par, however, with the help of my Hill Day buddy, I was able to calmly discuss talking points by the end of each meeting. I remember feeling relieved and proud when Mr. Sorbara quietly said, “This may be something worth pursuing”, as he jotted down “Development Finance Initiative” on a memo pad. As he rushed to his next appointment, he put the memo pad in the inner pocket of his blazer, and that’s when I knew that the note would be kept. I think we somehow managed to convey the message despite the occasional stutters and slip ups. In hindsight, I think it was our collective enthusiasm and earnest conviction that made it clear how important this was.
I am grateful to the MPs who were patient with us and stayed attentive throughout the meeting. I will be sending a thank-you email to our elected officials acknowledging their commitment, and I encourage you to do the same.
I am also grateful to the EWB community for their efforts. My personal contributions to DFI amounts to less than a small puzzle piece. It is the community’s research, initiatives, and leadership that served as the backbone for DFI advocacy, and this win is a result of their dedication and perseverance.
What this win means to me
The 2017 Federal Budget, reflects a wide range of issues from gender equality to sustainable economic growth. While public investments are not immediate solutions, they speak to a significant level of commitment to the issues they address. That said, I am thrilled to find that Budget 2017 has committed to institutionalizing the Development Finance Institution (DFI) in Canada.
Budget 2017 is also an inspiring moment because we have the privilege of taking part in global sustainable development as Canadian citizens. Even though the work on poverty alleviation, whether local or global, is never finished, the commitment to the DFI is an important step. But its implementation should continue to ensure transparency and accountability.
It is also a reminder that some causes are worthwhile even without guaranteed gratification. That is, this underlines the importance of civic engagement in helping advance the issues we care about most. I sincerely hope others share this sentiment and that this lesson isn’t missed as we celebrate this policy win.