'I believe the world needs more Canada'

"I'm going to become the biggest pain in his ass," Bono joked. "Paul Martin thinks he likes me, but he doesn't know what he signed on to. More lobbying about debt, begging letters about people who should never have to beg, petitions about unfair trade, phone calls about money for the Global Health Fund. "Someone in his office is going to say, 'Whose idea was it to invite this Bono guy?' "

National Post
November 15, 2003

'I believe the world needs more Canada'
Crowd cheers Bono as he vows to be 'pain' in Martin's butt
Heather Sokoloff

Bono, the Irish mega rock star, called Paul Martin "pretty cool," last night, moments before the new leader of the Liberal party addressed the country.

In return for the compliment, Bono pledged to step up his lobbying efforts to convince Canada to provide cheap drugs to AIDS-ravaged Africa and forgive Third World debt, now that his friend is leading the country.

"I'm going to become the biggest pain in his ass," Bono joked. "Paul Martin thinks he likes me, but he doesn't know what he signed on to. More lobbying about debt, begging letters about people who should never have to beg, petitions about unfair trade, phone calls about money for the Global Health Fund.

"Someone in his office is going to say, 'Whose idea was it to invite this Bono guy?' "

In a speech that drew constant cheers from the crowd, Bono praised Canada and said, "I'm a fan of Canada." Then echoing Jean Chrétien the night before, added, "I believe the world needs more Canada."
The celebrity activist accepted Mr. Martin's invitation to speak at the Liberal leadership convention to drum up support for legislation, currently before Parliament, that would make Canada the first country in the world to relax its patent legislation, so inexpensive generic medications can be made available to African countries struck by the AIDS pandemic.

"If you follow through on this promise, other countries will have to follow you," said Bono, looking very cool himself in purple sun glasses and an open-necked shirt.

The rock star met Mr. Martin, then finance minister, eight years ago during Bono's campaign to get industrialized countries to forgive Third World debt. "Paul Martin took my phone calls, he let me in, he promised to help and he kept that promise."

Bono said Canada's pending patent legislation, which already has the support of Mr. Martin and Mr. Chrétien, the outgoing Prime Minister, would give some hope to the 6,500 Africans who die each day of AIDS.

The rock star, who said he had no plans to join the Liberal Party of Canada — or any political party — explained that he first came to know the country through the music of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Daniel Lanois, his producer.

"A certain kind of idealism still seems to be alive in this country," said Bono. "You are not an insular place. You have always looked outside yourself. You are not self-obsessed, and this is coming from a rock star. Believe me I know self-obsessed, I see it in the mirror," he joked.

Later he made fun of Canadians' reputation for being too nice and said he was nearly "niced to death" at Toronto's Pearson airport yesterday.

"Everyone thinks you are nice, but everyone also respects Canada. Something subtle has gone on here. You've avoided a stigma and a suspicion that's attached to the rest of the world."

But the singer was also critical of Canada. Bono told Mr. Martin, who slashed foreign aid during the 1990s in an effort to balance the budget, as well as Mr. Chrétien, who often touts his efforts in Africa as part of his legacy, that Canada is barely keeping up with the United States in the percentage of its GDP earmarked for aid to poor countries. Europe also gives more.

"This is not just a rock star's pet cause. This is an emergency — and that's why I'm here," he said.
"Africa is going down in flames … If we really believed, deep down, that Africans were equal to us, we would not allow this to happen."

Getting the superstar to attend the Toronto event was a major coup for Martin organizers, who knew Bono would add some excitement to a convention otherwise lacking drama. At one point, organizers feared more than half the Liberal delegates would sit out the vote, given that the outcome was a forgone conclusion.

The deal was secured barely a week ago, said Scott Reid, a spokesman for Mr. Martin. And that was after Bono had declined Mr. Martin's offer a few weeks earlier, because he was scheduled to be recording in Dublin.

But when Bono heard that his Canadian producer, Mr. Lanois, would be coming to Toronto to see Mr. Martin at the convention, he dropped the recording date to join the festivities.

Mr. Martin had a private 20-minute meeting with Bono and Mr. Lanois after the Irish superstar's jet touched down in Toronto at 3 p.m. yesterday, said Mr. Reid.

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