Canada’s former Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda officially retired from the House of Commons yesterday. As Oda returns to life as a private citizen she leaves a controversial legacy in her wake.
First elected to the House of Commons for the Conservative Party of Canada in 2004, Oda was named opposition critic for the Ministry of Heritage. Re-elected in 2006 as a member of the Conservative Party’s minority government she was named Minister of Heritage and in 2007 was appointed Minister of International Co-operation (CIDA). Oda has the distinction of being the first Japanese-Canadian member of parliament and cabinet minister.
As Heritage critic Oda introduced Bill Bill C-333, the Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act, that called on parliament to recognize the unique contributions of Chinese immigrants to Canada’s and the injustice done to them as a result of racist legislation. As Minister of CIDA Oda received praise from international aid organizations for Canada’s response to the earthquake that rocked Haiti in January 2010. She also restructured Canada’s foreign-aid program on a core group of the world’s most needy countries. Oda was also the Minister responsible for seeing the Conservative government’s policy of increasing funding for maternal health in Third-World nations.
These policy successes were not without controversy themselves. Some organizations suggested Canada’s response to the Haiti disaster lacked focus and Oda took considerable heat over Canada’s decision to give aid for maternal health while withholding funding for abortion services.
In February 2011 it was revealed that Oda had ordered a staff member to enter a hand written annotation – the word “not” – to a 2009 recommendation for funding for KAIROS – a Canadian faith-based ecumenical organization – that resulted in the recommendation being ignored. When asked about the issue in the House of Commons Oda first told Parliament that she did not know who had made the annotation and then later, when threatened with contempt of Parliament, she admitted to giving the direction to her staff.
Despite these controversies Oda was re-elected to the House of Commons for the riding of Durham with considerable margins in both 2008 and 2011.
In the end it was a $16 glass of OJ that brought Bev Oda’s career as a cabinet minister and member of Canada’s parliament.
In 2011 Oda attended an international conference on the immunizations of poor children in London, England. Rather then stay at the hotel being provided by the conference Oda opted to stay at the much more expensive Savoy hotel and rented a limousine to transport her. While staying at the Savoy and working on a speech late at night Oda ordered the fateful glass of OJ.
Based on the social data it would appear that a glass of OJ is how Canadians are remembering Bev Oda. Whether it will become a lasting legacy, overshadowing her work as MP, opposition critic, and cabinet minister will only be know in time. The word cloud to the right represents the 50 most used words on social media conversations related to Bev Oda on her last day as a Canadian politician.