Martin promises more aid to Africa but won't take the 0.7% pledge

Prime Minister Paul Martin says Canada will ramp up foreign aid spending but won't pledge a set percentage of its economic output.

Laughing off a jibe from an Irish rocker, Prime Minister Paul Martin said on Friday that Canada will double its aid to Africa by 2008 but he won't pledge a set percentage of national economic output to foreign aid quite yet.

Speaking after a summit of the G-8 industrial powers in Scotland, Martin acknowledged that U2 front man Bono – a self-appointed social conscience to rich governments – had offered minutes earlier to kick his prime ministerial butt for again refusing to raise Canadian aid spending to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product by 2015.

Currently, Canada gives just over $3 billion per year to all foreign aid, or 0.26 per cent of the GDP.

Martin said he respects Bono, considers him a friend and shares his goal.

"Look, the fact is that we each have a job to do. My job is to make sure that we achieve the 0.7 and I'm going to do that, and his job is to push me to do it as quickly as we possibly can, and do it more quickly than I would have set out. He's doing his job and I'm doing mine."

Martin, who has consistently said he won't commit Canada to reach a fine-sounding goal in the misty future, refused to comment on pledges by some European governments to reach the 0.7 mark by 2015.

For Africa, he said, Canada is providing firm figures. His government had already promised to double aid to Africa by its 2008-09 bookkeeping year from about $1.05 billion in 2003-04.

"We have said we are going to double our aid to Africa. There are no conditions on that. There are no monies that have to be raised. It is budgeted and it is part of our ongoing cash projections.

"And then, having achieved that, we're going to go beyond that. And, in fact, it is our intention to do what we have done with other targets, and that is to beat our targets and to build on them."

He said the G-8 nations must honour a summit pledge to end export subsidies that hurt producers in poor countries by some yet-to-be specified date. In response to a question, he denied that Canada subsidizes grain exports through the Canadian Wheat Board, a perennial complaint of U.S. farm groups.

Martin again joined other leaders in denouncing Thursday's transit bombings in London. He argued that economic globalization is part of the answer to such attacks.

"Acts of terror were aimed at the innocent and at a way of life," he said. "The bombings not only highlighted the tremendous resilience and spirit of Londoners, they also demonstrated the pressing importance of the issues that we have just spent the last couple of days discussing and the prevailing need to expend to the left-out corners of the world the benefits of globalization and free trade.

"A more prosperous world, a more just world will be a much less fertile world for the ideology of hate."