Friday, June 08, 2007

Bono rebukes Harper

To the list of various issues that Stephen Harper has neglected, and for which he has been publicly rebuked, one could now the issue of aid to Africa. Bono has blasted Harper for blocking attempts to increase aid at the G8 meeting.

Bono, lead singer for U2 and activist for humanitarian aid, singled out Harper for criticism and accused the prime minister of blocking a deal – a charge Harper vehemently denied.

"It's completely false and the people saying this have no proof to their allegations," Harper said at a news conference as the summit ended in Germany.

But Bono said he had numerous sources at the negotiating table. ``It's as if we have the place bugged, because everybody tells us," he said.

"We know who's causing the trouble and who isn't. And we know that Canada blocked progress. We know that Harper blocked it."

He described the prime minister as out of step with Canadians who enjoy a prosperous economy and surplus public finances and would like to help others.

Harper has said he's a U2 fan but he's not at the summit to meet celebrities. His office did not respond to a phone call from Bono seeking a meeting to discuss aid for Africa. Later, it was explained that the prime minister could meet Bono at another time.

Bono said he doesn't believe the prime minister was too busy to meet with him at the summit – the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Britain managed to do so.

"It's not the pop stars he doesn't want to meet. It's the movement that we represent," Bono said.

"I said some years ago that the world needs more Canadas, and I meant it. I can't believe that this Canada has become a laggard. I think he's out of sync with the people."

Refusing to even meet with Bono was just not a strategically smart move. They could have had the photo up, both of them smiling, and Bono's response to Harper would have been somewhat more gentle.

Nevertheless, I'm glad that Bono is speaking this forcefully not just about Harper, but about the G8. Personally, as much as I like Bono as a musician and am glad he speaks out on issues, his gladhanding with the likes of Bush just rubs me the wrong way. I can understand the diplomacy angle to a point, but I think he goes too far with it. I much prefer the Stephen Lewis fair but firm approach.