Along with a hundred or so of the 'who’s who' in Canadian global health, this morning I went in Sian's stead to a “high-level conversation to explore opportunities for Canadian leadership in international development as we work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals”, at the invitation of the Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Marie-Claude Bibeau. There was a late change to the agenda for the meeting when Prime Minister Trudeau agreed to participate in the meeting. Bibeau and Trudeau made some opening remarks during which Trudeau announced that Canada will host the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in Montréal, Quebec on September 16, 2016, and Canada is pledging $785 million for the Global Fund 2017-2020 , a 20% increase over the previous pledge. The audience was quite happy to hear this announcement. I suppose it is a good thing – I don’t have a strong feeling about it. Maybe there would be a better way to spend the money, or maybe this is the right way to spend it.
Anyway, what I wanted to write about was how impressive Minister Bibeau and PM Trudeau are. After their prepared talks the floor was opened to questions and comments from the audience. Both of them appeared well informed, articulate and deeply interested in development and were able to manage the variety of questions thrown their way. I expected it from the Minister, but Trudeau who has so many other files on his plate, was still most thoughtful, and he impressed me.
I thought the best question was from someone from University of Ottawa (his name escapes me) about “policy incoherence” – when the policies promoting global development are in conflict with other government policies. The example the questioner gave was the TPP which will increase IP protection resulting in drastic increases in drug prices, among other things. The PM replied something like “I would not call it incoherence. Rather it is juggling the competing demands of government. That is what government does all the time – manages competing demands.” I don’t know much about government or policy, but I think the questioner had a valid point. “Policy incoherence” seems like the right name - and when policies are incoherent are they not less efficient and effective? If one policy works to increase drug prices, while another policy works towards increased accessibility to drugs… don’t you have to decide which one you really want? The wonks out there could point out greater contradictions – perhaps around promoting the oil sands and minimizing climate change, or around supporting big agriculture and supporting healthy foods systems. I don’t know, mostly I am writing all of this just to show the photo of the PM that I took. The Alcatel Idol2 is an inexpensive smart phone, and usually serves me well, but the camera sucks.