By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – U2 frontman Bono is travelling to Ottawa next week for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as his NDP and Liberal counterparts.
The Prime Minister’s Office says Harper is scheduled to have a “private meeting” Monday afternoon with the Irish singer, known as much for his humanitarian efforts and AIDS activism as his musical exploits.
The Opposition NDP and the Liberals say Bono will also meet with their respective leaders, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau.
A government official said it was the singer himself who requested the meeting with Harper in order to discuss maternal and child health, the prime minister’s signature foreign-aid initiative, and the effect of Canada’s efforts to date.
All told, Harper has committed $3.5 billion toward the cause, including a five-year commitment to 2020, aimed at reducing the number of deaths of newborns and their mothers in the developing world.
Bono, who last visited Parliament Hill in 2005, is also expected to attend question period Monday.
He’s no stranger to Canadian corridors of power. He’s met multiple times with previous prime ministers, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, and even gave the keynote speech at the 2003 Liberal convention that crowned Martin.
On that occasion, Bono praised Martin for promising to increase foreign aid and pronounced that “the world needs more Canada.” He also vowed to be “the biggest pain in his ass” if Martin failed to deliver.
By 2005, the singer was gently critical of Martin for falling far short of the foreign aid funding target of .7 per cent of GDP — a target set by former prime minister Lester Pearson in the 1960s and never met.
By 2007, he was much more blunt, accusing Canada of becoming “a laggard” on humanitarian aid to Africa and calling Harper “out of sync with the people.”
Harper reciprocated by snubbing a meeting with Bono at that year’s G-7 summit.
“Meeting celebrities isn’t my schtick,” Harper said then. “That was the schtick of the previous guy (Martin).”