CIDA eyeing private sector shift: Fantino

Julian Fantino. (WAYNE CAMPBELL/QMI Agency)

Julian Fantino. (WAYNE CAMPBELL/QMI Agency)

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

Canada can balance both humanitarian goals and economic development with its foreign aid dollars, says International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino.

The minister was defending his government's decision to work with the mining, oil and gas sector through non-governmental organizations and universities as part of its development goals.

"Our humanitarian aid will not wain," he told reporters on a teleconference call from Haiti Wednesday.

Ottawa recently announced $25 million for the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University to help developing nations benefit from those industries.

"We're not funding mining companies. We're not funding the mining industry," he said.

"Our intent is to ensure that Canadian companies are able to compete, that they're also conscientious and concerned about the need to bolster local economies."

Groups such as Mining Watch have raised concerns over the plans, arguing not all Canadian mining projects in developing countries have a good track record of environmental stewardship and labour issues.

But the minister said the focus will be on improving both the viability and sustainability of developing economies as well as preserving the environment around foreign mining projects.

He added the focus of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) may shift more towards public-private partnerships in sectors like mining and banking.

A recent report by the House committee on foreign affairs recommended CIDA take a closer look at how the private sector can help achieve Canada's international development goals and pursue more public-private partnerships.

Fantino was in Haiti to check on Canada-funded development projects launched after the 2010 earthquake.