Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bono on Martin

You just knew that Bono wasn't going to come to Ottawa without taking the opportunity to take a shot or two at his old buddy Paul Martin.

The U2 frontman, of course, is upset with Martin for not living up to his promise to increase foreign aid spending. Bono wants Canada to commit 0.7% of the country's GDP towards eliminating poverty internationally.

The best part, though? Bono was literally wearing rose-coloured (sun)glasses at the press conference in which he remarked - "I'm personally not just disappointed, I'm crushed, actually, because I really believed the Prime Minister would do that."

That belief was optimistic, certainly. But a bit naive, given the circumstances.

In the late 1980's, there was a commitment to eliminate (hey, we'd settle for reduce at this point) child poverty in Canada by 2000. And where are we, nearly six years since that target date has passed?

  • One in six Canadian children is poor
  • Canada's child poverty rate of 15% is three times as high as the rates of Sweden, Norway or Finland.
  • Every month, 770,000 people in Canada use food banks. Forty percent of those relying food banks are children.
(from the National Anti-Poverty Association)

It clearly isn't only internationally that our efforts against poverty are lagging.

Oh, and that commitment to raise foreign aid spending to 0.7% of GDP? It was the unanimous will of the House of Commons, based on the UN recommendation of Lester B. Pearson, back in 1969. (Incidentally, Pearson's Liberal minority government - propped up by the New Democratic Party - introduced universal health care, student loans, bilingualism, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada's flag. Where oh where has the Liberal Party gone?)

While we are far from the only country to fall short of the 0.7% target, our foreign aid has routinely dropped over the years, to almost half of what it once was. This is certainly not an encouraging signal that we ever intend to honour our pledge. If we don't mean it, can we please at least stop pretending that we do?

Story links: here, here & here


At 10:53 AM, Blogger Lisa Saarloos said...

Hear, hear. Indeed, drop the pretense. Although why a country like Canada can't be bothered to dedicate .7% of its GDP to foreign aid is beyond me.


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