The Tyee.ca As Canadians watch their daily news — the same sex marriage debate, the continuing saga of equalization payments and the fight over splitting the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in two — the future of the country is being decided elsewhere by unelected corporate power brokers. This particular future is called "deep integration" and is backed by the most powerful business groups, think tanks and foundations in the country. The most recent manifestation of this betrayal of Canada is called the Task Force on the Future of North America. Its leaked report shows the plan in its most refined form to date. The "team" backing this annexation initiative is politically ambidextrous, which signals the elites' unanimity. Two of the heavy hitters on the Task Force are John Manley, quite likely the next leader of the federal Liberals, and Michael Wilson, former Tory finance minister. It also includes former Quebec Premier Pierre Mark Johnson. Two of the six Canadian members are energy CEOs — just to indicate to George Bush that the oil companies run Canada, too. The fact that Canadians are more anti-American now that any time in the past 50 years has had no impact on the plans of the annexationists in our midst. It doesn't matter that huge majorities of Canadians want nothing to do with more integration with the rogue nation to the south of us. The democratic imperative is well and truly dead amongst the high rollers who, having failed to meet the competitive challenge of free trade, have adopted a new slogan: If you can't beat 'em, join em. Water, power, culture on the table The deep integration initiative was publicly launched in early 2002 with an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail by the C.D. Howe Institute's Wendy Dobson. A former staffer in Paul Martin's finance department, she described the thrust of the initiative this way: "Instead of waiting to be told what's expected of us [by the Americans], Canadian governments and industry should prepare for this possibility in a proactive way." She discussed the "Big Idea": that in order to get the Americas' attention we should give them everything we think they might want and then pray they give us real, unimpeded access to their market. The Task Force — co-chaired by John Manley — is trilateral and reports not to governments but to the Council on Foreign Affairs (CFA), one of the most influential think tanks in Washington. The CFA is one of three co-sponsors of the Task Force along with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and the Mexican Council on Foreign Affairs. The ubiquitous Tom d'Aquino of the CCCE (formerly the BCNI) is a vice-chair. There isn't much new in the summary report of the Task Force's first meeting, held last October in Toronto. But it does focus in on the most critical features of what Canada's business leaders want. Among the most controversial: eliminating the current NAFTA exemptions for culture and certain sectors of agriculture. Another is expanding the egregious energy provisions of NAFTA — which guarantee the U.S. an ever-increasing percentage of our gas and oil production regardless of Canadian needs — to other resources, including water. Messrs. d'Aquino and Manley also want to offer the Americans the same deal on electricity that they already have with natural gas — through a North American electricity grid. The initiative is driven by the post-9/11 geopolitical atmosphere and was first launched just months after the attack. The report states plainly that "security considerations trump other issues." The thinking behind this annexationist plan suggests that the only way Canada will not be hurt by U.S. security concerns is to adopt them as our own — and redefine ourselves as North Americans. Kids to learn continental virtue Indeed one of the most perverse parts of the plan would see the education system hijacked to implant in the minds of young Canadians the idea that they are, actually, North Americans: "Participants agreed that progress on this front will require effort within the education system [including] supplements to the standard curriculum." Talk about social engineering. Thomas Axworthy, another Task force member, and a long time advocate of creeping annexation, is going to "work" on this idea. A North American passport would also be part of the effort to erase any vestige of Canadian identity and replace it with one that would inevitably be American — not North American. Until recently, Bay Street's annexation initiative has been almost exclusively a private affair — the CCCE, think tanks, business columnists and now the Task Force. But the proponents believe that the time is ripe to engage the three governments and make the process a formal political project. In January the CCCE's d'Aquino initiated news coverage of the idea of a trilateral summit of Bush, Martin and Mexican President Vincente Fox. D'Aquino claimed that Bush was interested in calling a summit this year on "the scope and extent of a major initiative to forge a new economic and security partnership within North America." This is the most dangerous development in the annexation push so far. Conventional wisdom has suggested that the U.S. was simply not interested. If Bush is suddenly willing to talk about the idea there is only one reason: Behind the scenes our quisling economic elite has promised the U.S. such huge concessions on security, energy and water that they can't afford to ignore them. Sound the alarm. Murray Dobbin writes a regular State of the Nation column for The Tyee and is the author of Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?