OTTAWA -- The country's aid minister says Canada must have help from private-sector companies to meet its key development goal of reducing infant mortality and improving the health of young mothers in poor countries.

Tying Canada's overseas development assistance to private-sector partnerships has been a controversial proposition for the Harper government, and one that Development Minister Christian Paradis makes no apologies for.

The government has drawn fire in foreign aid circles for linking its aid priorities with private companies, notably in the mining sector, where Canada has launched three pilot projects.

But Paradis brushed aside that criticism saying it's very simplistic thinking.

Paradis is advocating partnering with the health sector to help Canada make progress on its "flagship" development priority of improving maternal, newborn and child health.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched his Muskoka Initiative at the G8 summit that Canada hosted in Ontario in 2010. While Paradis says there has been some initial success, the government isn't satisfied with the progress to date.