Harper has just announced his G8 centrepiece and the number he is offering up for maternal and children’s health is impressive.

If we have learned anything about Stephen Harper in the last few weeks, it’s that he really knows how to throw money at a problem.

Call me cynical, but this evening’s announcement of significant ($1.1 billion) new funding for his maternal health initiative is another example of the same ethos that lead to a G8/20 billion dollar security budget. Having spent all our money so he could play host on the world stage, Harper needed to put something close to commensurate on the table for his pet project. And I think all Canadians must be happy to know that more healthcare workers and birthing support will flow to those in desperate need as a result. But there is a difference between a pet project and a vision which is what’s needed for a sustained attack on the poverty and desperation that so many mothers and children face. Before we cheer too loud, let’s review this announcement in the context of what Canada is actually doing to foster the type of development that could transform these type of feel-good moments into game-changers.

Remember KAIROS? Last December, KAIROS revealed that its funding had been cut without explanation. That funding cut is just the tip of an iceberg that’s decimating the entire sector. Development and human rights are critical to human health but Harper has defunded and is in the process of de-funding some of Canada’s most long-lived and venerable institutions working in the development field including the 40 year old Canadian Council for International Co-operation, and the 100 Canadian development and humanitarian NGOs it represents. These are the organizations which have been bringing on the ground messages to the government about how to deliver “aid” to developing countries in a way that fosters prosperity instead of more poverty.

CCIC, for example, has been receiving government funding for 40 years. It is widely considered the heart of Canada’s international development community, providing much-needed leadership and research support to its Canadian members-and the government-and acting as a bridge between the government and the global development NGO network.

Well, the Council’s most recent funding agreement with CIDA expired on March 31 and beyond a three month extension, they have heard nothing about the fate of their dough from the government. Nothing. As a result, they have been forced to lay of two thirds of their staff, liquidate assets and put their office up for sale. This is part of a larger silencing of important work on the part of Canada’s civil society.

This disturbing trend birthed a new civil society new coalition that launched just last week. Initiators include orgainizations like OXFAM and Pares that don’t usually take these kind of stands.Check out the more than 100 organizations that have already signed on. And then, if you want, you can make your own contribution to maternal and children’s health by adding your support to their petition and pledge. voices-voix.ca.