Monday, July 11, 2005

G8 Summit on Africa Is Chretien's Legacy

It's not often many Canadians have anything nice to say about the Liberals or the regime of Chretien and Martin, but all Canadians should be proud of their efforts which bore fruit last week in Scotland at the G8.

In all the backslapping last week at the G8 whether it was Bono and Geldolf or Blair and Bush, they forgot the agenda on Africa was set three years ago in Kananaskis by Canadian PM Jean Chretien.

He reduced the usual three day love fest to thirty hours with a single focus; Africa. G8 summit takes to its roots This was the Canadian commitment to Africa. To kick the butts of the other G8 leaders to get down to business or as Chretien said at the time, in his own inimical way;

"We will walk the talk of the Africa Action Plan," adding, "There will be some people who will say it's not enough. But it's a departure - you could see the reaction of the African leaders. They were excited."

The leaders promised to reduce by $19 billion US the debt of 22 African countries that follow "sound economic policies and good governance." On top of other debt relief, that represents a reduction of $30 billion US for Africa, or two-thirds of the continent's debt. Chretien, in his closing news conference, said Canada will spend $6 billion over five years "to allow Africa to find its way out of poverty. The plan is in response to a document drafted by African leaders - called the New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD - that is meant to address cynicism from donor countries that aid to Africa is too-often lost in a sinkhole of Swiss bank accounts and questionable projects. "G-8 leaders commit to landmark plan to help break Africa's cycle of poverty

This was followed up the next year with a G8 meeting with African leaders,

So while the media and the pundints applauded Tony Blair for inviting African leaders to the Scotland G8 meeting last week, Chretien had already done so back in 2002, with a follow up meeting in 2003. Canada set the agenda for this round of talks, Blair was basking in the glow of Chretiens efforts.


In fact all Tony had going for him was he was hosting PM and had gotten a commitment from his old friend George Bush II to throw a little more money inthe pot, a pot already set up by Chretien three years ago.
Chretien Presses Bush on Aid to Africa

Bono who recently said he wanted to kick Paul Martins butt seems to foget the praise he heaped on both Martin and Chretien at the Leadership Convention in 2003 that saw Martin take over from Chretien. "Bono applauded Chretien's efforts in a recent letter, saying "From the perspective of a pesky Irish rockster, your leadership in Africa will be a legacy that lives on and flourishes way beyond your time in office."

Martin in his quest to match Chretiens generosity declared that Canada would be the first country to fund production of generic Aids drugs for Africa, something the US and its pharmaceutical company lobbies have opposed.

"The appearance of U2's Bono at the Liberal leadership convention has not only drawn attention to what has become more of a celebration than a race, it shows where new Liberal leader Paul Martin is focused, according to UN AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis. Lewis said he believes that having Bono at the convention signals Martin's commitment to a Canadian initiative to get generic AIDS drugs to Africa as well as an increase in foreign aid -- two projects he said Martin could pursue more vigorously than his predecessor. "I think Paul Martin is completely committed to generic drugs legislation," Lewis told News. "And I think that by having Bono at the Liberal convention, Paul Martin is giving the signal that we're likely to be contributing more to the resources of the Global (AIDS) Fund." Bono and Martin join forces on aid to Africa

How quickly they forget. Geldof and Bono, have put pressure on the G8 leaders to live up to their commitments, and while Canada has not fully made a commitment to .07 funding by 2015,(again a target originally made by another Liberal PM, Lester B. Pearson) the efforts of Canada to make Africa the issue at the G8 to come up with a generic AIDS plan, and to look at breaking down trade barriers, is more than done by any other country to date, including by Tony come lately.

If Martin was realistic, heck even pragmatic, in telling Bono and Geldof that Canada would not make a commitment, regardless of the surplus, to .07% now, it's because he put on the mantel of Fianance Minister. And he told Bono and Geldof, Canada will contribute what it actually can, which was increased with the passing of the Better Balanced Budget of the NDP. Not what we might need for PR purposes, and summit photo ops, but what we realistically can. On top of the commitments we have already made over the last three years.

This then is the legacy of the Chretien Government, that Africa would become a focus of the G8 and of the world three years after Chretien made it His issue.

Something that we can all be proud of, and in our usual Canadian way, sit back and say others can take credit for what was another Canadian first.

While the Liberals and Chretien are tainted with Adscam, the real legacy of the last decade of the Chretien regime will be the success or failure of the world to deal with the crisis in Africa.

But Chretien will at least be able to take credit for making the industrial countries of the G8 take the plight of Africa seriously. Without his efforts Blair, Bono and Geldoff would not have been able to make it the issue of this G8 meeting.

Damn I almost feel like I have been possesed by the spirit of Warren Kinsella. But hey credit where credit is due, and Canada and Chretien did not get enough credit this week for what happened at the G8 meeting in Scotland.

But what else is new, eh?

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