Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Melinda Gates visited Davisville Public School in Toronto on Thursday, May 29, 2014, as part of a summit on maternal health. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Melinda Gates visited Davisville Public School in Toronto on Thursday, May 29, 2014, as part of a summit on maternal health.

(Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

The Globe speaks to Stephen Harper and Melinda Gates about maternal and child health Add to ...

Is there an element for Canada, in thinking about foreign aid, of enlightened self-interest?

I suppose. Look, I think we do things for all kinds of reasons. But, look. We’re now in a world, we know everything is interconnected. And not just the economy. You know, we had an economic recession in Canada, not because of anything that happened in Canada but because we’re in a global economy and our export markets suffered from what people did in other countries. We now have, occasionally, these pandemics crossing Canadian borders, from far away, diseases unknown in this country, not native to this country, suddenly can appear.

So, terror, you know, terrorism, 9/11, Boko Haram. We don’t have to talk about all of that. All of these. We’re in a truly global world. So I do think it is in our broader, enlightened self-interest to make the world a better place.

But I also do think some of these things are just worth doing in their own right. We are a very wealthy and lucky people. It’s not all luck, but you know, we all like to think we’re self– made, but most of us were fortunate to be born at this point in history and in this particular county.

And as a consequence of that alone, we have a standard of security and living way above most people. And I just think, give us some perspective to sit back, look at how the rest of humanity lives and survives, and see it in our hearts to share a little bit of that blessing.

My experience is that there has been, Canadians are more than willing to do that. I think there has been, in the past, and not necessarily wrongly, a lot of cynicism about foreign aid. You know, does it work, does it go into the right pockets, what happens to it, is it really effective.

And you know, we know many, many instances in the past where that cynicism is justified. But I also know that when Canadians do contribute and actually see results, that that is something that actually inspires them. And I actually think they find it maybe far more worthwhile than many of the things they did in their own lives.

Melinda Gates: I think it’s also worth saying a couple of things. You know, these are lives, these are people’s lives we’re talking about. This is a baby or a mother, like a Canadian mother. Or a Canadian baby. And if you can save a child’s life for a few cents or 30 dollars for the basic set of vaccinations that you get here in Canada that we know save literally millions of children’s lives.

Those are lives worth saving. And in addition, when you invest in those mothers and children, those mothers are ploughing back into society. So they’re lifting up their family, they lift up their community, and then we actually get GDP results out of this. So we know that these basic health investments, if you then go on to make sure that a woman has in her hand, or a male, the right seeds so that they’re growing three times as much yield on their farm and they get a little bit of income, they can put their kids in school. And so when you look at the history of how Canada or the US or now Mexico or Morocco, who’ve just come, these countries more recently have come from low-income countries to middle –income countries – we can actually look out across Africa now and say in 2030 or 35 you’re going to have far fewer low-income economies than you do today.

And so when you think of a world that’s a prosperous world, and a peaceful world, we’re going to be far better off if we have middle income countries, and it’s the right thing to do for humanity.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper: But the real fact is, that a country doesn’t have to be very prosperous, with the right interventions, to massively reduce child and maternal mortality. That can be done at very low levels of prosperity.

This is a significant amount of money that was pledged today, $3.5-billion over five years toward [maternal and child health]. Canada has had its aid budget frozen. Is this a sign that there will be an opening up of that [budget] going forward?

You know, I never use one announcement to make another announcement. We’ll do one announcement at a time. But as I say this is something we’ve made a priority of. We’ve had good results, and Canadians have really responded. And so I’m very confident that Canadians will respond positively to the increase we’re putting into this particular program.

This interview has been edited and condensed

Single page

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobePolitics

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories