Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is coming under fire from some critics after a weekend tweet in which he appeared to offer up a $50-million aid pledge offhand.
But according to one government spokesperson, the money pledged in a tweet to Trevor Noah, who is hosting the Global Citizen Festival in honour of former South African leader Nelson Mandela’s pursuit of ending extreme poverty, is part of the $400 million already announced during the G7 Summit in June to support education for girls.
“We always look for hooks to release the funds,” said Louis Belanger, director of communications for International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
During the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Que., in June, world leaders pledged a total of $3.8 billion to improve access to education for girls.
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Of that, Canada pledged $400 million over three years.
Belanger said the $50 million pledged in Trudeau’s tweet is part of that $400 million and has “been in the pipeline for some time.”
The decision to give the funds to Education Cannot Wait, the recipient organization announced by Trudeau, was made three weeks ago.
“Then we looked for an opportunity to announce it,” Belanger said.
It will likely be the last announcement of how those funds will be allocated that comes out this year, he said, adding the rest of the overall G7 pledge has not yet been allocated to specific organizations.
Trudeau’s tweet sparked questions about where the money was coming from and whether it would actually be new cash.
It also sparked criticism.
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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took to Twitter to accuse Trudeau of “pledging $50 million in a tweet to impress a TV personality.”
He also questioned the spending, given the government’s roughly $19 billion budget deficit.
The fall economic statement given last month by Finance Minister Bill Morneau showed there is still no plan for how the government will balance the books, even if elected to a second term.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel also accused Trudeau of being “tone deaf” for announcing the pledge of support the same day as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s announcement that the province will cut oil production by 8.7 per cent to try and alleviate a supply glut.
That glut is contributing to a steep drop in prices for landlocked Western crude, which primarily sells to the American market at a discount compared to U.S. oil.
Trudeau is not attending the Global Citizen Festival.
He had been in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the G20 meeting of world leaders but returned to Ottawa Sunday night.
— With files from Global News’ Nick Logan