Bono says Martin mystifies him, urges PM to give more to Third World

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by Stephen Thorne, Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) - Irish rock star Bono says Prime Minister Paul Martin's inability to further increase foreign aid mystifies him, especially facing an election in a country that clearly favours more foreign aid.

"I'm mystified, actually, by the man," the U2 lead singer told a news conference Friday. "I like him very much, personally.

"I just think that it's a huge opportunity that he's missing out on. This is important to the Canadian people. I think the prime minister will find out if he walks away from the opportunity to (boost foreign aid) he will hear about it in the election. I am absolutely sure of that."

Bono said he was heartened by polls suggesting most Canadians support a boost to foreign aid. He wants Canada to increase foreign contributions to 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product.

That would more than triple the $3 billion Canada currently spends on foreign aid each year.

He has also called on Canada to erase foreign debt and advocate fair trade in a world where a billion people live on less than a dollar a day.

Martin said he'd spoken with Bono on the phone for about 15 minutes on Friday morning.

"His role is to push me forward," Martin said at a first ministers' conference in Kelowna, B.C., before reiterating his oft-stated belief that Canada can't commit to the 0.7 per cent target without a firm plan for reaching that goal.

Speaking in support of the Make Poverty History project, Bono said Canada could easily increase Third World aid because it's the only major industrialized country in a surplus position.

"I would beseech the Canadian people, as their politicians meet them on their doorsteps, just . . . say this is the kind of Canada that your kids want to grow up in, this is the kind of Canada the world needs now."

Bono is in Ottawa for a U2 concert but spent the day meeting with party leaders, saying he wants to appeal to the better nature of people in what he calls a better country.

He said Canada's humanitarian tradition and moral convictions are the reasons he's a "fan" of Canada and why he comes here with his band to play.

"The Canadian people are ahead of the prime minister on these global poverty issues," he said. "There is something about Canada that sets it apart.

"This is it. It's this kind of leadership, this sense of decency and a kind of awakeness to what's going on in the wider world - that's what sets Canada apart."

Bono and Martin have been friends for some time - he spoke to the Liberal party convention two years ago - and has long campaigned for Canada to give 0.7 per cent of its GDP to world relief.

He said he's "crushed" by Martin's refusal to meet the target. He said he thought that Martin, as a former finance minister, would "make the numbers work" in a surplus economy.

"I just want to appeal to the better nature of what I always thought of as a better country," he said.

A Conservative MP later suggested the party would increase foreign aid to the 0.7 per cent target.

International co-operation critic Helena Guergis said Canada's foreign aid contributions are roughly half of what they were under the previous Conservative government.

"Bono's efforts towards ending global poverty are both noble and heroic (and) a Conservative government would ensure that such calls are no longer ignored," said Guergis.

International Trade Minister Jim Peterson met Bono briefly seeking his support for the Doha development round and talks taking place later this December in Hong Kong aimed at opening world markets to less-developed countries.

Peterson handed Bono a letter pointing out the benefits of free trade for developing countries. He asked the singer-activist to go to Hong Kong.

He stressed the talks are a unique opportunity to lift millions out of poverty and emphasized the need for opinion leaders like Bono to motivate the public to support opening up markets to the developing world.

"For developing countries, the road to prosperity is riddled with unfair barriers and difficult obstacles," Peterson wrote, citing billions of dollars spent by wealthy nations to unfairly subsidize their own farmers.

"The rich remain rich, and poorer countries suffer the consequences," said Peterson. "We must open up our markets to developing countries.

"We must rein in the obscene level of agricultural subsidies in the U.S. and the EU, which continue to deny essential economic opportunities to the world's poorest."

Copyright © 2005 Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

Bono and all U2 are the best in the world for ever! Keep going and doing good job guys

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 25, 2005 11:09 PM.

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