2004 - 2008
For over two years, EWB members across the country ran a multifaceted advocacy campaign, moving Bill C-293 (the ‘Better Aid Bill’) from idea to reality.
MP John McKay introduced Bill C-293 in mid-2006; as a non-government bill it had little support and looked likely to fail. Despite initial fears and opposition, it eventually passed through Parliament in May 2008 as the Development Assistance Accountability Act. This Act places several conditions on Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), requiring that it:
- Contribute to poverty reduction
- Take into account the perspectives of the poor; and,
- Aligns with international human right standards
The Act calls for consultation with governments, international agencies, and Canadian civil society organizations in ODA decision-making processes at least once every two years. It further increases transparency around aid spending by requiring Ministers to routinely report on ODA spending.
Why is this important?
This Act is groundbreaking—the first of its kind in the world. It is an integral first step in the delivery of more effective and transparent aid.
What role did EWB play?
EWB was the first group to strongly support and advocate for the legislation.
In order to ensure that it passed the Second Reading in the House of Commons, members nationwide mobilized in September 2006, meeting MPs and encouraging them to vote in favour of the Bill.
The Bill passed by a count of 159 to 108, but the work was not yet over. EWB members continued to meet with MPs to ensure the legislation would result in real change. In total, members met with over 50 MPs.
We built public awareness about the legislation, talking to Canadians about the Bill at venues as varied as coffee shops, classrooms, barbeques, and music festivals. EWB members also attracted significant media coverage through outreach events and well-written letters to the editor. We collected over 10,000 signatures that were presented to the House before the Third Reading; the Bill passed with 166 votes in favour.
Bill C-293 spent a year in the Senate; many members met with and wrote to their Senators urging them not to stall the Bill’s passage. Finally, on May 9th 2008, the Bill returned to the House and was passed in a unanimous vote!
In his final speech, John McKay recognized EWB’s efforts, stating:
“Who can forget the Engineers without Borders who phoned me, literally out of the blue, and encouraged me and invited me to their conference and got behind this Bill. It is so encouraging to see young, bright, vibrant, energetic people, our nation’s future, get behind a Bill such as this and give it their enthusiastic push.”