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Labour + Industry

Our Sovereignty Secretly at Risk

Biggest voter issue off media's radar? Canada's stealthy 'integration' with US.

Mel Hurtig 1 Oct

This is drawn from the last chapter of Mel Hurtig's latest book The Truth About Canada. Hurtig is creator of The Canadian Encyclopedia and author of The Betrayal of Canada, Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids, The Vanishing Country, and Rushing to Armageddon. He is a member of the Order of Canada and lives in Vancouver.

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Harper and Bush: 'The Grand Bargain.'

In February 2003, the vice-president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in Canadian Senate hearings, said that de facto integration of Canada with the United States was here already "whether many Canadians realize it or want to accept it" and, anyway, we don't need "duplicate systems of approval."

Got that? No need for duplicate systems of approval. I suppose there's no need for the House of Commons or provincial legislatures either. Let's just rubber-stamp American policies, standards and values.

Earlier, the continentalist Financial Post columnist Diane Francis said that "Canada is more integrated with the United States economically than any two European countries are."

The noted Canadian economist Richard Harris and the Carnegie Endowment long ago both said the same thing, back in 2002.

David O'Brien, chairman of the board of the Royal Bank of Canada, has said that Canada would have to adopt U.S. immigration policies.

We're going to lose increasingly our sovereignty, but it's necessarily so.

Patrick Daniels, president of Enbridge, hilariously complains that Canada pushes its sovereignty a little too far.

In June 2006, the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), consisting of business leaders from each of the three NAFTA countries, was formed "to advise governments."

Toronto lawyer Paul Bigioni called it "an anti-democratic institution."

Secret summits

On the surface, the NACC appears to be an initiative of government. It is not. It was entirely conceived by the private sector. In 2003, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives launched a sales pitch designed to convince governments to pursue such business-friendly initiatives as "re-inventing" borders, regulatory convergence and energy integration. It is no coincidence that the NACC currently pursues the same objectives.

In fact, all of the Canadians on the NACC are members of the powerful CCCE lobby group, and the CCCE serves as the Canadian secretariat. The big business NACC is the only non-governmental organization making recommendations to the secret, tripartite Security Prosperity Partnership discussions.

Top secret meetings -- behind-closed doors -- have already been held, with more of the same planned for the future. These meetings are designed to further integrate Canada into the United States and have us adopt even more American standards, values and policies, and to give Americans even more guaranteed access to our resources and the unimpeded ability to buy up the ownership and control of even more of our country.

Perhaps you do not know about the three days of highly secret meetings that took place at the Banff Springs Hotel in mid-September 2006, meetings between top-level American, Canadian and Mexican government officials and many senior corporate heads.

In fact, probably you don't know. But, then again, why should you know? Despite the fact that the leaked guest list of very high-level VIPs was sent by me to the media along with the agenda, there wasn't a word about the meetings in our two national newspapers the Globe and Mail or The National Post. There was nothing on CBC television, on CTV or on Global, although all were contacted. (The Tyee did run a report.)

'Not for public release'

The documents that I obtained and sent out had been marked beforehand "Internal Document. Not for Public Release." The three heavyweight co-chairs of the secret meetings were former Alberta Conservative premier and strong pro-FTA advocate Peter Lougheed, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz and former Mexican secretary of the Treasury Pedro Aspe.

Among the many well-known Canadians scheduled as "participants" were Stephen Harper's Conservative cabinet ministers Stockwell Day (who at first denied attending) and the then-defence minister Gordon O'Connor, deputy ministers (Defence) Ward Elcock, Peter Harder (Foreign Affairs), Associate Deputy Minister William Elliott (Public Security), Liberal continentalist Anne McLellan, Canada's former deputy prime minister and a defender of the oil patch, the Alberta minister of energy, Greg Melchin, General Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of defence staff, former Conservative cabinet minister Perrin Beatty, now president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the infamous continentalist Thomas d'Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Rear Admiral Roger Girouard, Maj.-Gen. Daniel Gosselin, plus numerous top corporate heads, lawyers, petroleum industry officials and others.

Among the many scheduled American participants were the political advisor to the head of the U.S. Northern Command, the president for the Americas of Lockheed Martin Corporation, the senior director for the Western Hemisphere of the American National Security Council, the U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Carla Hills (who was the primary U.S. NAFTA negotiator), the senior United States Air Force military assistant to the then secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, the chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology, Dr. James Schlesinger, the former American secretary of energy & defense, the deputy secretary of energy, plus many other top business, government and military officials, plus representatives of similar groups from Mexico.

In the intended-to-be-secret "internal agenda document" were plans for detailed discussions about economic, energy, security, military and other forms of integration.

'If it isn't a conspiracy...'

After I distributed the list of participants and the agenda to the media and to my e-mail list, many concerned people across Canada phoned the participants seeking more information. Almost no calls were returned, and those that were produced zero answers to the many questions asked as to what was decided at the three-day meeting, who paid for the meetings, who organized them, and why every attempt was made to keep them secret.

Six months after the meetings, Ottawa Citizen reporter Kelly Patterson revealed that:

"Organizers of a controversial summit of top Canadian, U.S. and Mexican politicians, military brass and business executives hired a consulting firm to keep the proceedings secret, access to information documents show.

"A 'media management plan' for the event in Banff last fall imposed a gag order on all participants who were directed 'to avoid direct media engagement where feasible.'"

After I sent him the information I had about the meetings, Peter C. Newman wrote to me: "I tried phoning people I trusted and I thought trusted me, and no one would tell me anything. IF it isn't a conspiracy, they're doing their best to make it appear like one."

A halt to law changes and debate

In February 2007, Teresa Heely of Social and Economic Policy at the Canadian Labour Congress wrote about more closed door meetings. The "Security and Prosperity Partnership" meetings seek "to avoid legislative change and public debate. Democratic debate and decision is making way for privileged corporate access and new rules that undermine sovereignty and human rights."

Knowing that a new government treaty like the FTA or NAFTA for further Canada-U.S. integration would never survive the opposition in Parliament, "Proponents have moved underground to promote 'deep integration.' ...policy harmonization that increasingly opens social life across the continent to the discipline of the market. It is about increasing the power of corporations and ongoing de-regulation."

What 'deep integration' aims to achieve

The so-called "NAFTA-plus" or "deep integration" or "Grand Bargain" being promoted and discussed at these secret meetings plans for the elimination of barriers to even greater foreign ownership and foreign control, the slashing of government spending on social programs, the weakening of prospective environmental regulation, (ensuring there are no barriers to increased energy and resource exports from Canada), and many other policies that will result in even greater control of Canada by the U.S.

This is integration by the powerful via secrecy and stealth, planned by and for the likes of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the U.S. Council of the Americas and the Center for Strategic Studies, clearly under the guidance and with the financing of the U.S. government in Washington, D.C.

Author Silver Donald Cameron says of the "Security and Prosperity Partnership": "The SPP is the new name for the old American project of Manifest Destiny -- absolute control over the whole continent."

Cameron calls the CCCE, "The Canadian Council of Collaborators."

The backlash in the US

While our own government in Ottawa silently condones the plans for further integration with the U.S., and while our provincial governments continue to be completely sound asleep on this vitally important topic, irony of ironies, at this writing 15 U.S. states have expressed concern that the big business sponsored Security and Prosperity Partnership is a process that, wait for it, is a threat to states' rights and to the sovereignty of the United States. And in July 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives cut some SPP funding because of the group's failure to consult Congress, and the complaint that "They have been intransigent, they have been unresponsive and frankly, they have been secretive."

In August 2007, 22 members of the House of Representatives asked George Bush to back away from the SPP because of their concerns that it may undermine U.S. sovereignty and their strong objections about important discussions continuing "out of public view and without congressional oversight or approval" or the "proper transparency and accountability."

Does anyone think a single person in the entire Harper government has uttered a similar word of complaint? Not a chance.

An insider's notes

On the surface it may appear that not much happened at the August 2007 SPP meetings at Montebello. But Thomas d'Aquino gave the Globe and Mail a hint about what is really happening behind the scenes:

"A lot of work is going on, on the regulatory front, the environmental front, the energy front, the border front... There is a big selling job that has to be done." And he told the National Post that "The Montebello Summit produced significant progress across a range of policy areas.

Shortly after 9-11, he called for "more fundamental harmonization and integration with the U.S." to keep the borders open.

All of this covert, under-the-table planning is happening in Canada despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Canadians, year after year, in poll after poll after poll, show that they believe that Canada has been too good a country for us to surrender to our greedy and selfish big-business leaders whose values are so very different from those of most Canadians who are still very proud of our country, our culture, our history, our values, our civility and tolerance, and are not the slightest bit interested in further "harmonization and integration" with the U.S.

Democracy eroded

Alas, the compradors, the neo-cons and the continentalists are powerful, well-organized and very well-financed. We now know that the initial SPP agenda included over 300 items. As a spokesman for the CCCE told a House of Commons committee: "Many of these represent very small steps... On the other hand, even 300 small steps, if we take them all, add up to a pretty giant leap for North America."

Testifying to the same Commons committee on the same day, Bruce Campbell, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said of the SPP:

"I never hear talk about measures that would encourage upward harmonization of labour or environmental standards... tax measures that would prevent corporations from engaging in transfer pricing or discourage shifting profits to tax havens. This type of cooperation is not on the SPP agenda, and it begs the question: prosperity for whom?

"Convergence and harmonization means... Canada bending its regulations or simply adopting U.S. federal regulations, and I ask the question: at what point does the narrowing of policy room to manoeuvre fundamentally compromise democratic accountability in our political system?"

Voices of dissent

In 2007, a group of well-known Canadians including authors, academics, musicians and former politicians joined forces to oppose further integration with the U.S. They issued a statement:

"Canada faces a stark choice. We can be gradually assimilated and lose our identity as a nation, or we can retain our independence and renew our own unique vision of what we wish for Canada's future... a vision of strong communities, tolerance, equality, environmental stewardship, and a peaceful and constructive role in the world.

"We believe that in spite of recent developments, Canadians believe passionately in the traditional values that guided this country in its post-war nation building.

"The Security and Prosperity Partnership will give us neither security nor prosperity, nor is it a genuine partnership. We stand against this scheme and urge other Canadians to join us."

In August 2007, the National Council of Women of Canada summed it all up nicely in a single paragraph:

"This agreement has not been debated in or sanctioned by our Parliament. We believe that it threatens our sovereignty and puts control of our natural resources such as the Tar Sands and water at risk. For the U.S. government to negotiate a trade agreement manifestly to the advantage of international business interests using the "motherhood and apple pie" issue of security and prevention of terrorism is highly suspect. It's the 21st century version of "if you're not for us, you're against us." For a Canadian government to agree to such an undebated surrender of our sovereignty is shameful and unacceptable.

"We demand that all SPP discussions be brought into the legislative and public domains immediately."

A key election

All of this said, if we use it properly, the one very important thing we have on our side -- democracy -- can overwhelm our own selfish sellouts. Changes in election financing would be a huge step towards diminishing the influence of those who are now actively planning to give our country away.

There's no doubt in my mind that we can stop these sellouts. But for us to do so requires nothing less than a very substantially heightened degree of direct political activism by people who really care about the survival of our country.

Don't be misled by intentionally leaked reports out of Washington that the SPP is dead. The likes of Tom d'Aquino, Raymond Chrétien, John Manley and Allan Gotlieb are powerful, persistent, tenacious and well-connected in both countries. At this writing there are at least 20 cross-border committees working on integration.

Let's be certain that Canadians know of and understand their plans, and let's be certain that we never allow them to succeed.

As this federal election unfolds, Harper has all the advantages of incumbency, a huge war chest of election funds and polls that show Canadians would much prefer him to Mr. Dion as prime minister. Most pundits predict another minority or even a majority Conservative government. If you care about Canada, now is the time to go to work to preserve our sovereignty, our independence, our cherished and special values, and our economic, social and political integrity.

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